Iron deficiency assessment for protection of the newborn brain

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. About 1 in 4 people do not have enough iron to stay healthy. Pregnant women, infants and young children are at high risk of iron deficiency, as they need more iron than other population groups to support growth and development. Maternal health, including body weight and lifestyle factors as well as pregnancy-related complications can affect iron transfer in the womb. Iron deficiency during pregnancy and early life can have serious consequences for a baby’s brain development, affecting their intelligence, emotions and behaviour. Therefore, we need to be able to identify the mothers and infants who are at the greatest risk so that they can receive treatment. In Ireland, there is no system to identify mothers and babies at risk and no testing for iron deficiency during pregnancy or at birth.

This project aims to develop two screening tools to select those at risk of iron deficiency; one for use in pregnant women and their babies and the second for babies who are born preterm. The screening tools will collate medical and bloodrelated data collected during pregnancy and in babies from studies that we have already carried out. These two screening tools will then be tested in clinical practice and will be brought into clinical practice to ensure that iron deficiency in pregnant woman and infants is detected early. This will allow prompt, targeted treatment and will prevent the long-term developmental and health consequences of iron deficiency.

This project will benefit the health and wellbeing of the Irish population, by protecting brain development, leading to improved education, job potential and life satisfaction.

Award Date
26 June 2020
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Dr Elaine McCarthy
Host Institution
University College Cork
ARPP 2020