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J Nutr. 2014 Dec;144(12):2050-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.200345. Epub 2014 Oct 1.

Asymptomatic malaria infection affects the interpretation of biomarkers of iron and vitamin A status, even after adjusting for systemic inflammation, but does not affect plasma zinc concentrations among young children in Burkina Faso.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA;
Health Sciences Research Institute, 01 BP 545 Bobo-Dioulasso 01, Burkina Faso.
Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA;



Biomarkers of iron [plasma ferritin (pF)], vitamin A [retinol binding protein (RBP)], and zinc status [plasma zinc (pZn)] are affected by the acute phase response, independent of micronutrient status.


The objective of these analyses was to assess how asymptomatic malaria infection affects the interpretation of these biomarkers after adjustment for elevated acute phase proteins (APPs).


Soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR), pF, RBP, and pZn concentrations were measured among 451 asymptomatic children aged 6-23 mo in Burkina Faso and adjusted for elevated APP (C-reactive protein ≥5 mg/L and/or α-1-acid-glycoprotein ≥1 g/L) based on a 4-group categorical model. Plasma histidine-rich protein II (HRP2) concentrations ≥0.75 μg/L were considered indicative of current or recent malaria parasitemia.


Of the children in the study, 57.4% had at least 1 elevated APP, and 48.5% had elevated HRP2. After adjusting for APP, children with elevated HRP2 had higher pF (23.5 ± 1.5 μg/L vs. 11.1 ± 0.8 μg/L; P < 0.001) and lower RBP (0.79 ± 0.01 μmol/L vs. 0.92 ± 0.01 μmol/L; P < 0.001) than those without, but there were no differences in pZn among those with and without elevated HRP2 (64.9 ± 12.7 μg/dL vs. 64.9 ± 11.1 μg/dL; P = 0.98). Children with elevated HRP2 had higher sTfR than those without (17.6 ± 0.5 mg/L vs. 12.3 ± 0.4 mg/L; P < 0.0001). After adjusting for HRP2, along with APP, the estimated prevalence of iron deficiency (pF < 12 μg/L) increased from 38.7% to 50.6% and vitamin A deficiency (RBP < 0.84 μmol/L) decreased from 33.4% to 27.7%.


Asymptomatic malaria is associated with indicators of micronutrient status, even after adjusting for APP. Adjusting indicators of iron and vitamin A status based only on APP may inaccurately estimate the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies in settings with a high prevalence of malaria and inflammation. This trial was registered at as NCT00944853.


acute phase proteins; asymptomatic malaria; biomarkers; deficiency; ferritin; iron; micronutrient status; retinol binding protein; soluble transferrin receptor; zinc

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