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An assessment of methods used in the investigation of iron status: findings in a population of young British South Asian children


Aims To assess the value of laboratory tests available for the investigation of iron status in a population of young British South Asian children.

Methods Blood count, red cell distribution width (RDW), percentage hypochromic red cells (%hypo), concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP), ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor, plasma iron measurements and incidence of deletional forms of α-thalassaemia were determined.

Results Haemoglobin, mean cell haemoglobin (MCH), ferritin and CRP values classified iron status in 151/205 (73.6%) consecutive children aged 4–43 months. Fifty-four could not be classified: 12 were anaemic with findings, other than normal CRP values, indistinguishable from those with anaemia of inflammation and 42 were non-anaemic with reduced MCH values. All 42 had normal ferritin concentration and 8 of 36 successfully tested had deletional α-thalassaemia trait. Despite apparent iron sufficiency the RDW, %hypo and ZPP values of these 42 were not significantly different from the 32 children classified with iron-deficient erythropoiesis. The gene frequency of deletional α-thalassaemia trait in the entire group was 8.6%.

Conclusions Among 205 British South Asian children aged 4–43 months with high incidences of anaemia, iron deficiency, infection and α-thalassaemia, 151 (73.6%) were classified using haemoglobin, MCH, ferritin and CRP values. In 42 non-anaemic, iron-sufficient children with subnormal MCH values, that is with a phenotype of α-thalassaemia trait, RDW, %hypo and ZPP values did not differ significantly from those with iron-deficient erythropoiesis. Raised RDW, %hypo and ZPP values should be interpreted with caution in non-anaemic young British South Asian children with microcytosis.


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