Previous data from Vietnam show that anaemia is highly prevalent among schoolchildren, who are considered not to be iron deficient. Trichuris infection doubled the risk of anaemia. The present study aimed to evaluate the hypothesis that de-worming is more effective than iron fortification in an anaemic, infection-prone population. In a trial with a 2 × 2 factorial design, 425 anaemic children aged 6–8 years were randomly assigned to receive either iron-fortified noodles or placebo, and mebendazole or placebo. Outcomes considered were change in haematological indicators of iron status (Hb, serum ferritin (SF), serum transferrin receptor (TfR) and haemoglobinopathies analysis); inflammations (C-reactive protein (CRP)); parasite infection status (hookworm, Trichuris and Ascaris infection); and IgE. ANOVA and logistic regression were used to assess the effects of iron fortification and de-worming on Hb, SF, TfR, body iron and anaemia. Hb improved in all groups after 6 months of intervention. Iron fortification significantly improved Hb, SF and body iron (2·6 g/l, 16·3 μg/l and 1 mg/kg, respectively). Prevalence of elevated IgE was very high at baseline (99 %) and significantly reduced to about 75 % in all groups after intervention. De-worming unexpectedly showed no effect on Hb, iron status and IgE level. It is concluded that iron fortification slightly improved anaemia and iron status in anaemic schoolchildren in rural Vietnam that were not considered iron deficient. Chronic infection or other unidentified factors may play an important role in the seasonal reduction of anaemia seen in all treatment groups.
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