Anemia Offers Stronger Protection than Sickle Cell Trait Against the Erythrocytic Stage of Falciparum Malaria and this Protection is Reversed by Iron Supplementation

by M.M. Goheen, R. Wegmüller, A. Bah et al.
EBioMedicine, December 2016, Volume 14, Pages 123–130

8 pp. 569 kB

The long-term consequences of anemia are severe, and it is easily treatable. However, concerns remain about the safety of iron supplements, particularly for children in malaria-endemic countries lacking adequate access to health services. The authors used red blood cells (RBCs) from Gambian children before, during, and after 12 weeks of daily iron supplementation for in vitro P. falciparum assays. P. falciparum invasion and growth was decreased in anemic RBCs and increased after 49 days of iron supplementation relative to baseline (p <0.001), paralleling increases in young RBCs, which the parasite prefers. The parasite growth protection from anemia was substantial, providing greater population level impact than sickle-cell trait.

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