Background Although universal provision of iron supplements to children is recommended by the WHO, it is not yet clear whether the administration of the supplements poses a risk in children in malaria-endemic areas. We investigate the effects of iron supplementation in children with post-malaria anaemia and haematological response with immediate and delayed (2weeks) iron administration.
Methods A randomised double-blind clinical trial was conducted in Zomba and Blantyre between 2009 and 2013. All children aged 4 to 36 months with uncomplicated malaria and with iron deficiency were enrolled into the study. Malaria treatment was administered to all the children and they were randomly assigned to 3 groups as follows: immediate iron administration, delayed iron administration, or placebo. The children were followed up for 10 weeks, with their haematological recovery indices and adverse effects being monitored at 2, 4, 8 and 10 weeks. The primary outcome of the study was the proportion of children without anaemia (defined as Hb >10.9 g/dl) at the end of the iron supplementation period.
Results A total of 538 participants were randomised to immediate iron administration (n=183), delayed iron administration (n=183), or placebo (n=172). The incidence rate ratio (IRR) of being non-anaemic at the end of the follow-up period (10 weeks post-malaria infection) was 1.51 (95% CI 1.17–1.94, p<0.001) among immediate group versus the placebo group. There was no significant difference between delayed and placebo group (IRR 1.18, 95% CI 0.91–1.55). Secondary analysis of risk of malaria and bacterial infection and iron markers at the end of the intervention period is underway and shall be presented at the conference.
Conclusion The results so far support the administration of iron immediately after completing antimalarial treatment in anaemic children, however safety results will be needed to be reviewed before conclusive recommendations.
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