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Better infant iron deficiency test

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BOSTON, Aug 23, 2005 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Earlier detection and treatment of iron deficiency in infants could prevent impaired mental development, researchers said Tuesday.

Scientists compared commonly used hemoglobin screening tests with a new, unique blood test that detects iron deficiency in infants earlier and more accurately than current procedures.

The study, conducted at Children's Hospital Boston, is the first to compare the test called CHr, with the standard hemoglobin test as a screen for iron deficiency in infants.

The CHr test measures the hemoglobin content of reticulocytes, or immature red blood cells, whereas the standard hemoglobin test is based on the entire population of red blood cells.

Because reticulocytes are present in one's bloodstream for only 24 to 48 hours, as compared with several months for mature red blood cells, measuring reticulocyte hemoglobin content provides a more timely indication of iron status, the investigators said.

Dr. Henry Bernstein, associate chief of pediatrics at Children's Hospital Boston and the principal investigator of the study. said, "Once confirmed in larger, multi-center studies, these findings could change our preferred screening practices for the early detection of iron deficiency."

The research appears in the Aug. 24 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International.

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