Erythrocyte biomarker could be low-cost iron deficiency marker in anemia

Both iron deficiency anemia and anemia associated with inflammation are common in children in India with chronic infectious disease, such as HIV/AIDS. The deficiency can cause developmental delay, including neurological problems and stunted growth. It's important to identify the iron-deficient children that can be treated with supplements, but there are few sensitive and specific biomarkers that can be used to detect iron deficiency anemia in this environment. Additionally, cost and ease of testing always present a challenge in developing countries.

In an abstract accepted at the 2011 ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition, a team of Indian researchers is suggesting the potential of zinc protoporphyrin/heme (ZPP/H) as a biomarker of iron deficiency. This could be a low-cost and simple assay to perform.

In a prospective study of 41 HIV-infected children with anemia, around half had iron-deficiency anemia and half anemia of inflammation. The levels of ZPP/H were significantly higher in patients with iron deficiency anemia compared with anemia associated with inflammation. 

While the specificity of ZPP/H is limited, the sensitivity in identifying iron-deficiency anemia is high. This could be useful for indicating which children could benefit from iron supplements.

- see the abstract

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