New study findings suggest Ghana initiate an iron supplementation program

A recent study in a malaria-endemic area of Ghana did not see an increased incidence of malaria for children who were administered a micronutrient powder with iron, suggesting Ghana reevaluate its iron supplementation program.

The study was published in the September 4 issue of JAMA and sought to discover if a correlation exists between iron levels and malaria prevalence. A previous study noted with increased iron levels, researchers found increased prevalence of malaria.

Malaria is the leading cause of child morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the most preventable nutritional deficiencies for children is an iron deficiency. Ghana has, however, stopped its iron supplementation program due to the risk that it poses to increasing a child’s risk of contracting malaria.

The study took a group of children between 6 and 35 months of age and gave them a micronutrient powder with or without iron. The powder was administered to the children for five months; the researchers studied the children for an additional month to note any additional consequences. All children were given insecticide-treated bed nets and provided malaria treatment.

The study found that children with iron deficiencies and anemia when the study began showed decreased rates of malaria prevalence at its conclusion.

“Overall, given our findings and the new WHO guidelines recommending iron fortification for the prevention and treatment of anemia among children younger than 2 years (in whom the prevalence of anemia is ≥20 percent), there should be renewed interest and consideration for implementing iron fortification in Ghana as part of the national nutrition policy," the authors of the study wrote.