Danneskiold--Samsøe N, Fisker AB, Jørgensen MJ, Ravn H, Andersen A, Balde ID, Leo-Hansen C, Rodrigues A, Aaby P, Benn CS. Determinants of vitamin A deficiency in children between 6 months and 2 years of age in Guinea-Bissau. BMC Public Health 2013;13:172. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-172.

Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies Guinea-Bissau as having severe vitamin A deficiency (VAD). To date, no national survey has been conducted. We assessed vitamin A status among children in rural Guinea-Bissau to assess status and identify risk factors for VAD.                                        

Methods: In a vitamin A supplementation trial in rural Guinea-Bissau, children aged 6 months to 2 years who were missing one or more vaccines were enrolled, vaccinated and randomized to vitamin A or placebo. Provided consent, a dried blood spot (DBS) sample was obtained from a subgroup of participants prior to supplementation. Vitamin A status and current infection was assessed by an ELISA measuring retinol-binding protein (RBP) and C-reactive protein (CRP). VAD was defined as RBP concentrations equivalent to plasma retinol <0.7 μmol/L; infection was defined as CRP >5 ml/L. In Poisson regression models providing prevalence ratios (PR), we investigated putative risk factors for VAD including sex, age, child factors, maternal factors, season (rainy: June-November; dry: December-May), geography, and use of health services.                                

Results: Based on DBS from 1102 children, the VAD prevalence was 65.7% (95% confidence interval 62.9-68.5), 11% higher than the WHO estimate of 54.7% (9.9-93.0). If children with infection were excluded, the prevalence was 60.2% (56.7-63.7). In the age group 9-11 months, there was no difference in prevalence of VAD among children who had received previous vaccines in a timely fashion and those who had not. Controlled for infection and other determinants of VAD, the prevalence of VAD was 1.64 (1.49-1.81) times higher in the rainy season compared to the dry, and varied up to 2-fold between ethnic groups and regions. Compared with having an inactivated vaccine as the most recent vaccine, having a live vaccine as the most recent vaccination was associated with lower prevalence of VAD (PR=0.84 (0.74-0.96)).

Conclusions: The prevalence of VAD was high in rural Guinea-Bissau. VAD varied significantly with season, ethnicity, region, and vaccination status.

Last revised 14 August 2013