Hookworms, malaria and vitamin a deficiency contribute to anemia and iron deficiency among pregnant women in the plains of Nepal

Michele L. Dreyfuss, Rebecca J. Stoltzfus, Jaya B. Shrestha, Elizabeth K. Pradhan, Steven C. LeClerq, Subarna K. Khatry, Sharada R. Shrestha, Joanne Katz, Marco Albonico, Keith P. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


Anemia and iron deficiency during pregnancy are prevalent in developing countries, but their causes are not always known. We assessed the prevalence and severity of anemia and iron deficiency and their association with helminths, malaria and vitamin A deficiency in a community-based sample of 336 pregnant women in the plains of Nepal. Hemoglobin, erythrocyte protoporphyrin (EP) and serum ferritin were assessed in venous blood samples. Overall, 72.6% of women were anemic (hemoglobin < 110 g/L), 19.9% had moderate to severe anemia (hemoglobin < 90 g/L) and 80.6% had iron deficiency (EP > 70 μmol/mol heme or serum ferritin < 10 μg/L). Eighty-eight percent of cases of anemia were associated with iron deficiency. More than half of the women (54.2%) had a low serum retinol concentration (<1.05 μmol/L), 74.2% were infected with hookworms and 19.8% had Plasmodium vivax malaria parasitemia. Hemoglobin, EP and serum ferritin concentrations were significantly worse and the prevalence of anemia, elevated EP and low serum ferritin was increased with increasing intensity of hookworm infection. Hookworm infection intensity was the strongest predictor of iron status, especially of depleted iron stores. Low serum retinol was most strongly associated with mild anemia, whereas P. vivax malaria and hookworm infection intensity were stronger predictors of moderate to severe anemia. These findings reinforce the need for programs to consider reducing the prevalence of hookworm, malaria infection and vitamin A deficiency where indicated, in addition to providing iron supplements to effectively control anemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2527-2536
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2000


  • Anemia
  • Iron deficiency
  • Nepal
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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