Severe Anemia Is Associated with Systemic Inflammation in Young Children Presenting to a Tertiary Hospital in Uganda
The role of inflammation in severe anemia (SA) in African children has not been well characterized. We conducted a study to evaluate risk factors for SA in young children admitted at a tertiary unit in Uganda. Clinical, infectious, and micronutrient risk factors for anemia, along with markers of inflammation, were evaluated in children aged < 5 years in Jinja Hospital, Uganda. Participants included 284 children with SA (Hemoglobin [Hb] < 5.0 g/dL), and two control groups: 63 children admitted with acute illness without SA (Hb > 9.3 g/dL) and 53 asymptomatic community control children. Appropriate logistic analysis was performed to determine factors associated with SA. Of the 284 children with SA, 36.5% had Plasmodium falciparum parasitemia, 32.7% had blackwater fever (one of the types of severe malaria), and 15.5% had vitamin B12 deficiency. HIV infection, bacteremia, hookworm infection, severe acute malnutrition, and folate deficiency were relatively uncommon (each accounting for < 8%). Factors independently associated with SA compared with the combined control groups included (adjusted odds ratio [OR]; 95% CI) the following: P. falciparum parasitemia (OR: 4.3; 95% CI: 1.4–13.8), total white blood count (OR: 1.3; 95% CI: 1.1–1.4), C-reactive protein (OR: 1.8; 95% CI: 1.3–2.4), and ferritin (OR: 2.7; 95% CI: 1.9–4.0). In this area of Uganda, malaria and markers of inflammation were independently associated with SA in children. Additional studies are required to determine the role of inflammation in children with SA in this population.