Twenty four infants between 27 and 33 weeks' gestation were recruited into a double blind study to investigate the use of recombinant human erythropoietin (r-HuEpo) for the prevention of anaemia of prematurity. Between 50 and 150 U of r-HuEpo (n = 16) or placebo was administered subcutaneously twice a week from 7 days of age until discharge. There was a significant increase in the reticulocyte count in infants receiving r-HuEpo sustained from the second week of treatment until discharge compared with placebo. There was a reduction in the number of transfusions required in the r-HuEpo group with only 47% requiring a transfusion compared with 87% in the placebo group. During treatment with r-HuEpo there was a significant rise in the red cell folate concentration, a significant fall in the ferritin concentration, and a significantly higher percentage of haemoglobin F at discharge suggesting active erythropoiesis. The study provides strong evidence for the efficacy of r-HuEpo in stimulating erythropoiesis and reducing the requirement for transfusions for anaemia of prematurity.
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