As a result of research by two doctors at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tivka, the World Health Organization is set to change its recommendation against administering iron supplements to children with deficiency in the metal who live in areas with a high prevalence of malaria.

Iron deficiency, and its attendant anemia, is the most prevalent micronutrient disorder in the world, according to the WHO. In the young, iron deficiency anemia can retard development of the brain, learning and motor skills, and may weaken the immune system. The recommended practice in the medical community up until now, however, has been not to administer iron supplements as doing so was believed to increase the risk of contracting malaria.

Reflecting this belief, the WHO Web site still reads: “Although the benefits of iron supplementation have generally been considered to outweigh the putative risks, there is some evidence to suggest that supplementation at levels recommended for otherwise healthy children carries the risk of increased severity of infectious disease in the presence of malaria and/or undernutrition.”


But all that’s about to change.

Dr. Dafna Yahav and Dr. Michal Paul of the hospital’s internal medicine E department and infectious disease unit, assisted by Dr. Ju Ojukwu and Dr. Ju Okebe, conducted a meta-analysis of 68 controlled clinical studies, and concluded that this conventional wisdom was not supported by the data. Some 43,000 children were included in the studies the Rabin doctors analyzed. Their study appears in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

“We hope that the results of our study, and the change in the WHO’s recommendations, will bring about better and more correct treatment of millions of children and prevent suffering and complications,” they said.

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