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J Trop Pediatr. 1996 Aug;42(4):220-7.

Does iron therapy benefit children with severe malaria-associated anaemia? A clinical trial with 12 weeks supplementation of oral iron in young children from the Turiani Division, Tanzania.

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Diocesan Health Programme Morogoro, Mikumi, Tanzania.


Oral iron supplementation is often routinely given to children with malaria-associated anaemia, but its contribution to recovery is controversial. A randomized clinical trial, evaluating such routine, was carried out among 100 children, who had a haemoglobin of < or = 5 g/dl and a positive blood smear for malaria parasites. All children received malaria therapy (chloroquin + fansidar) and were randomly allocated to two groups, one receiving additional oral iron treatment, the other being the control. In the 12-week follow-up period the haemoglobin level and malaria indices were measured at 2, 4, 8, and 12 weeks. There was a 100 per cent compliance during the follow-up period. In each group 20 children (40 per cent) required a blood transfusion. In the remaining 60 children, after 2 weeks the haemoglobin had risen 3.7 g/dl in the ferrous-supplemented group compared to 3.5 g/dl in the non-ferrous group. Thereafter, the increase in haemoglobin in both groups was steady. At follow-up measurements, the groups did not differ for haemoglobin levels. The mean haemoglobin at 12 weeks was 9.2 and 9.0 g/dl, respectively. It was concluded that iron supplementation did not have any effect on the rate of parasitaemia and on parasite density during the 12 weeks. However, the iron-supplemented group had a significantly increased morbidity from other causes than malaria. It appears that iron does not have an effect on the recovery of haemoglobin level in children with malaria-associated anaemia. This study provides no evidence supporting routine iron supplementation to these children.

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