Wetenschap - 5 september 2002

Iron pills do not increase chance of malaria

Iron pills do not increase chance of malaria

There is no need to worry about giving young Kenyan children iron supplements to combat anaemia. This is the conclusion from research carried out by Hans Verhoef of the Department of Human Nutrition and Epidemiology, published in The Lancet of 20 August. The chance of the children contracting malaria does not increase.

Verhoef's conclusion is remarkable, as malaria is caused by a parasite that needs iron. Researchers thought that the low levels of iron in the blood of African children protected them against malaria. Verhoef put this idea to the test with a group of more than three hundred children suffering from anaemia. The children were given either iron, a placebo, malaria medicine, or iron and the medicine together for a period of three months. No increase in malaria was observed among the children who had been given iron. Verhoef's work is financed by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), and this is his fourth publication on malaria in The Lancet.

Willem Koert