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Underdiagnosis of iron deficiency anaemia in HIV-infected individuals: a pilot study using soluble transferrin receptors and intensive bone marrow iron stores to improve the diagnosis


Aim We compared soluble transferrin receptors (sTfR), serum ferritin, mean cell volume (MCV) of red cells and the sTfR-ferritin index with the intensive method bone marrow trephine (BMT) iron stores in the diagnosis of iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-positive hospitalised participants.

Methods In this cross-sectional study, we recruited hospitalised (HIV)-positive and coronavirus of 2019 (COVID-19)-negative adults with anaemia who required a bone marrow examination as part of their diagnostic workup. We measured the full blood count, ferritin, sTfR and assessed iron using the intensive method in Haemotoxylin and Eosin (H&E)-stained BMT core biopsies of consenting participants.

Results Of the 60 enrolled participants, 57 were evaluable. Thirteen (22.80%) had IDA on H&E BMT iron stores assessment, and 44 (77.19%) had anaemia of chronic diseases (ACD). The sTfR and the sTfR-ferritin index had sensitivities of 61.54% and 53.85%, respectively, for IDA diagnosis. The sensitivity and specificity of ferritin was 7.69% and 92.31%, respectively. The sTfR and sTfR-ferritin index’s diagnostic specificity was relatively low at 46.15% and 38.46%, respectively.

Conclusion In this pilot study in HIV-positive participants, the prevalence of iron deficiency using the BMT assessment was low. Both the sTfR and the sTfR-ferritin index had a better quantitative correlation to bone marrow iron stores when compared with the MCV and ferritin and, may be more accurate surrogate markers of IDA.

  • IRON
  • HIV Infections
  • Iron Metabolism Disorders

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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