Universal iron supplementation: the best strategy to tackle childhood anaemia in malaria-endemic countries?

Karthikappallil R, Atkinson SH
Wellcome Open Res. 2023;8

Permenent descriptor

Iron deficiency presents a major public health concern in many malaria-endemic regions, and both conditions affect young children most severely. Daily iron supplementation is the standard public health intervention recommended to alleviate rates of iron deficiency in children, but there is controversy over whether universal supplementation could increase the incidence and severity of malaria infection. Current evidence suggests that iron supplementation of deficient individuals is safe and effective in high-transmission settings when accompanied by malaria prevention strategies. However, low-resource settings often struggle to effectively control the spread of malaria, and it remains unclear whether supplementation of iron replete individuals could increase their risk of malaria and other infections. This review explores the evidence for and against universal iron supplementation programmes, and alternative strategies that could be used to alleviate iron deficiency in malaria-endemic areas, while minimising potential harm.