Objectives : We aimed to determine if delaying iron until 28 days after antimalarial treatment in children with severe malaria and iron deficiency leads to fewer subsequent clinical malaria episodes as compared to concurrent iron therapy.
Methods : The randomized controlled trial was conducted Ugandan children 18 mo-5 y with severe malaria [cerebral malaria (CM), n=79; severe malarial anemia (SMA), n=77] and healthy community children (CC, n=83) at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda. All children with malaria received antimalarial treatment. Children with iron deficiency (defined by zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP) >= 80 µmol/mol heme) were randomized to start a 90-day course of ferrous sulfate (2 mg/kg/day) concurrently with antimalarial treatment on Day 0 (immediate group, I) or on Day 28 (delayed group, D). Incidence of malaria episodes over the 12-month follow-up period was assessed by sick-child visits to the study clinic. Malaria was defined as measured fever (T >37.5°C) plus Plasmodium falciparum on blood smear. Negative binomial regression was used to model counts of malaria episodes as a function of treatment group (I or D), controlling for age. Hazard ratios compared time to event between the I and D groups.
Results : All children with CM and SMA and 35 CC had high ZPP and were randomized to I or D iron. There were no differences in malaria incidence (defined with either measured fever or history of fever) with I vs. D treatment in any study group. The incidence of inpatient malaria episodes defined with history of fever was marginally statistically significant lower with D iron in the SMA group [incidence rate ratio (IRR) D/I (95% CI) = 0.38 (0.14, 1.1), p=0.07). In the SMA group, children who received D iron tended to have a longer time to first inpatient event than children in the I group [Hazard ratio (95% CI) D/I: 0.37 (0.13, 1.1), p=0.07].
Conclusions : Delaying iron in children with severe malaria had no clear risk or benefit on subsequent malaria incidence or time-to-first episode as compared to immediate treatment. Given that previous analysis revealed that iron status was improved with delayed iron among children with SMA, the lack of difference in malaria incidence suggests that delaying iron therapy may be a safe way to improve iron status in this group.
Funding Sources :