Rapid iron infusion trial to tackle widespread deficiency among children in Australia’s Northern Territory

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Around 25-30% of children aged 0-4 years are anaemic. ©iStock
Around 25-30% of children aged 0-4 years are anaemic. ©iStock
A project in Australia’s Northern Territory is to trial giving anaemic children rapid iron infusions before they are discharged from hospital in an attempt to reduce the risk of ongoing iron deficiency.

In remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory (NT), around 25-30% of children aged 0-4 years are anaemic at any time and most children are affected at some point.

The Menzies School of Health Research hopes the rapid infusion will also increase haemoglobin levels, remove the need for additional painful injections, improve the adherence to recommended treatment and lessen the reliance on primary health care resources.

Led by Deputy Head of the Menzies Child Health division, Professor Peter Morris, the project will compare multiple painful intramuscular (IM) iron injections with an intravenous infusion of ferric carboxymaltose (Ferinject).

Proven to be a safe and effective treatment in adults, and now recommended for use in pregnancy, Ferinject is a new iron preparation that allows a higher dose of iron to be given as a rapid iron transfusion with very low risk of transfusion reaction.

“Iron deficiency anaemia is one of the most common health problems affecting Indigenous children in the NT. The illness reduces energy levels and can harm development in young children,”​ Professor Morris said.

Difficult treatment

“While we have seen improvements in rates of severe illness and child mortality, high rates of anaemia in children persist.”

Along with the benefit of reducing treatment pain, the use of Ferinject will remove the need for children to have follow-up injections in the months following hospital discharge. This requirement of the current treatment plan has been difficult for patients and clinics, according to experts.

“We hope to see reduced rates of anaemia in children whilst eliminating the need for ongoing, painful treatment regimens,” ​Professor Morris concluded.

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