The effectiveness of recombinant human erythropoietin (r-HuEpo) in raising haemoglobin concentrations in very low birthweight infants was examined in a randomised multicentre study. Twenty nine 'healthy' appropriate for gestational age infants with birth weights 900-1400 g entered the study at 3 weeks of age. All infants received breast milk supplemented with 9 g/l human breast milk protein from 3 to 8 weeks of age. Eighteen mg iron was given daily from week 3 and was doubled if serum iron concentration fell below 16.0 mumol/l. Fourteen infants were randomised to receive 100 U/kg r-HuEpo subcutaneously three times a week from week 3 to week 7; 15 infants served as controls. After one week reticulocyte and haemoglobin concentrations were significantly higher in the r-HuEpo treated group and the haemoglobin values remained significantly higher throughout r-HuEpo treatment and at the concentrations observed in full term infants. No adverse effects were associated with the treatment. In stable very low birthweight infants with optimal iron and protein intakes, moderate dose r-HuEpo can produce significant gains in red cell production that may be clinically useful.
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