Background & objective: Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is uncommon in individuals with sickle cell disease (SCD) because of availability of an adequate iron source potentially from increased red cell turnover and from blood transfusions. Also, iron deficiency anaemia can often go unnoticed because the sickle cell disease patients are already anaemic. Iron deficiency in sickle cell patients may result in lowering the intracellular haemoglobin concentration and this may ameliorate sickling. The present study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia and the response of iron supplementation in sickle cell disorders in tribal population of the four States viz. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.
Methods: A total of 8434 individuals (7105 AA, 1267 AS and 62 SS) were tested for zinc protoporphyrin/haem (ZPP/H) ratio and haemoglobin levels. Twenty two sickle cell anaemia (SS), 47 sickle cell trait (AS) and 150 normal control (AA) individuals who were iron deficient, were given iron therapy for a period of 12 wk and the laboratory investigations were repeated at the 13th wk.
Results: Sixty seven per cent of subjects with sickle cell anaemia and 26 per cent with sickle cell trait had elevated ZPP/H ratios (>80 micromol/mol) as against 22.8 per cent of normal individuals. The elevated ZPP/H ratios is an indicator of microcytic anaemia of iron deficiency. Following iron therapy, an improvement in the Hb levels and ZPP/H ratios was observed in both sickle cell disorders and normal individual cases.
Interpretation & conclusion: This study suggests that iron deficiency anaemia is an important problem in Indian sickle cell anaemia patients and iron supplementation should be given only in proven cases of iron deficiency anaemia.