The iron regulatory hormone hepcidin may be a useful marker for identifying children with anemia who would benefit from iron supplementation, according to a study in African children (Pasricha S-R et al. Sci Transl Med. 2014;6:235re3). Iron supplementation can help children with anemia who are iron deficient, but it can be harmful in those not low in iron.
Researchers measured levels of hepcidin in blood samples taken from 2 large cohorts of children (1313 children total) aged 6 months to 6 years from studies performed in Gambia in 2001 and Tanzania in 2008. Low plasma hepcidin levels were found in children with anemia caused by iron deficiency, but not in those with anemia resulting from infection or inflammation. A retrospective secondary analysis of a study carried out in 2003 in 25 children with anemia from Gambia showed that hepcidin measurements could also identify those children who could incorporate more than 20% of an oral iron dose into their red blood cells.
Friedrich MJ. Marker for Iron-Deficiency Anemia?. JAMA. 2014;311(23):2372. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.7242