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Hookworms, malaria and vitamin A deficiency contribute to anemia and iron deficiency among pregnant women in the plains of Nepal.

Dreyfuss ML; Stoltzfus RJ; Shrestha JB; Pradhan EK; Le Clerq SC; Khatry SK; Shrestha SR; Katz J; Albonico M; West KP
J Nutr 2000 Oct;130(10):2527-36

Anemia and iron deficiency during pregnancy are prevalent in developing countries, but their causes are not always known. We assessed the prevalence and severity of anemia and iron deficiency and their association with helminths, malaria and vitamin A deficiency in a community-based sample of 336 pregnant women in the plains of Nepal. Hemoglobin, erythrocyte protoporphyrin (EP) and serum ferritin were assessed in venous blood samples. Overall, 72.6% of women were anemic (hemoglobin < 110 g/L), 19.9% had moderate to severe anemia (hemoglobin < 90 g/L) and 80.6% had iron deficiency (EP > 70 micromol/mol heme or serum ferritin < 10 microg/L). Eighty-eight percent of cases of anemia were associated with iron deficiency. More than half of the women (54.2%) had a low serum retinol concentration (<1.05 micromol/L), 74.2% were infected with hookworms and 19.8% had Plasmodium vivax malaria parasitemia. Hemoglobin, EP and serum ferritin concentrations were significantly worse and the prevalence of anemia, elevated EP and low serum ferritin was increased with increasing intensity of hookworm infection. Hookworm infection intensity was the strongest predictor of iron status, especially of depleted iron stores. Low serum retinol was most strongly associated with mild anemia, whereas P. vivax malaria and hookworm infection intensity were stronger predictors of moderate to severe anemia. These findings reinforce the need for programs to consider reducing the prevalence of hookworm, malaria infection and vitamin A deficiency where indicated, in addition to providing iron supplements to effectively control anemia.

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