Ferritin and its association with anaemia in a healthy adult population in Kenya

Geoffrey Omuse, Assumpta Chege, David Enoch Kawalya, Elizabeth Kagotho, Daniel Maina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background Iron deficiency is the commonest cause of anaemia worldwide. Serum ferritin is the most sensitive non-invasive indicator of iron stores but its utility is compromised in inflammatory states as it is an acute phase reactant. This study sought to estimate the burden of iron deficiency in a healthy adult population residing in Kenya and to determine the association between various ferritin cut-offs and anaemia in a population known to have chronic low-grade inflammation. Methods Healthy adults aged 18–65 years were recruited from urban towns in 4 counties in Kenya at average altitudes of 1683-2099m above sea level as part of a global study conducted by the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry (IFCC) to determine reference intervals (RIs) for common laboratory tests. We analyzed complete blood count (CBC), C-reactive protein, iron, transferrin, transferrin saturation and ferritin data. Results We obtained data from 528 participants. There were 254 (48.1%) males and 274 females (51.9%). Based on a ferritin cut-off of 15 μg/L and Hb cut-offs of 14.5 g/dL and 12 g/dL, the prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia was 0.8% and 7.3% in males and females respectively. The odds of having anaemia was highest if one had a ferritin value less than 15 μg/L with a sensitivity of 28.6% and specificity of 98.4% in males, and sensitivity of 83.3% and specificity of 78.0% in females. Conclusion Only the ferritin cut-off of 15 ug/L had an association with anaemia where it can be used for ruling out iron deficiency as the cause. Sex specific ferritin cut-offs for diagnosing iron deficiency in adults in sub-Saharan Africa need to be derived by comparing ferritin levels to stainable iron in bone marrow aspirates and trephines in order to ensure that we are using appropriate clinical decision limits.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0275098
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10 October
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Ferritin and its association with anaemia in a healthy adult population in Kenya'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this