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Ann Trop Paediatr. 1989 Mar;9(1):6-16.

Iron-deficiency anaemia and its response to oral iron: report of a study in rural Gambian children treated at home by their mothers.

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Medical Research Council Laboratories, Fajara, Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa.


Haematological and iron parameters, measured in 907 children aged from 6 months to 5 years in rural Gambia at the start of the rainy season, differed from those in American reference populations as follows: mean haemoglobin levels were much lower at ages 1 and 2 years and mean levels of mean corpuscular volume (MCV) were lower at all ages (at age 1 year mean haemoglobin was 11.2 g/dl and mean MCV 68.2 fl); in a sample of 249 children randomly selected from the whole study population, mean serum iron levels were similar but mean transferrin saturation and mean serum ferritin levels were lower, especially at ages 1-3 years (at age 1 year mean serum iron was 11.1 mumol/l, mean transferrin saturation 16.9%, and geometric mean serum ferritin 8.8 ng/ml. A total of 213 children (23%) whose haemoglobin and mean corpuscular volume were both less than the 3rd percentile of the reference population received oral iron or placebo from their mothers during the rainy season when malaria transmission is maximal. Mean levels of haemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume, serum iron, transferrin saturation and serum ferritin rose in the iron-treated group and fell in the placebo group at all ages, except under 1 year for serum ferritin, to produce significant differences between the groups by the end of the study. Total iron-binding capacity showed no significant changes during the study. We concluded that oral iron given by the mother during the rainy season can be used to treat iron-deficiency anaemia in Gambian children who would otherwise become more anaemic.

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