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Keywords:

  • Plasmodium falciparum malaria ;
  • anaemia;
  • iron;
  • micronutrients;
  • sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine;
  • child;
  • Tanzania

Summary The control of childhood anaemia in malaria holoendemic areas is a major public health challenge for which an optimal strategy remains to be determined. Malaria prevention may compromise the development of partial immunity. Regular micronutrient supplementation has been suggested as an alternative but its effectiveness remains unsettled. We therefore conducted a randomised placebo-controlled intervention trial with 207 Tanzanian children aged 5 months to 3 years on the efficacy of supervised supplementation of low-dose micronutrients including iron (Poly Vi-Sol with iron) three times per week, with an average attendance of ≥ 90%. The mean haemoglobin (Hb) level increased by 8 g/l more in children on supplement (95% CI 3–12) during the 5-month study. All age groups benefited from the intervention including severely anaemic subjects. The mean erythrocyte cell volume (MCV) increased but Hb in children ≥ 24 months improved independently of MCV and no relation was found with hookworm infection. The data therefore suggest that micronutrients other than iron also contributed to Hb improvement. In the supplement group of children who had received sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) treatment, the mean Hb level increased synergistically by 22 g/l (95% CI 13–30) compared to 7 g/l (95% CI 3–10) in those without such treatment. Supplementation did not affect malaria incidence. In conclusion, micronutrient supplementation improves childhood anaemia in malaria holoendemic areas and this effect is synergistically enhanced by temporary clearance of parasitaemia.