Iron Deficiency Assessment for protection of the newborn brain (IDEA)


Iron deficiency is the number one micronutrient deficiency in the world. Globally, it is estimated that 1 in 4 or almost 2 billion people are iron deficient and lacking this essential micronutrient for growth, development and health.

Pregnant women and their infants are at the most risk of iron deficiency. Unfortunately, iron deficiency during this critical period of development has long-lasting, irreversible consequences for cognition, intelligence, motor function and behaviour, given the fundamental role of iron in the developing brain.

Given the considerable threat that iron deficiency poses to both public health in Ireland and worldwide, interventions to tackle this threat are urgently required. Interventions targeting the fetal and neonatal period could represent the best opportunity for the prevention of iron deficiency and its associated long-term health consequences.

In the IDEA project, the research team at INFANT, led by Dr Elaine McCarthy aims to construct and validate a screening tool to identify individuals at an increased risk of iron deficiency during pregnancy and early-life. This first-of-its-kind screening tool will enable us to detect those at the greatest risk of deficiency to protect them from deficiency and protect the infant’s developing brain.

The project will utilise data and knowledge already gathered in previous studies (such as IMPROvED, SCOPE and BASELINE) conducted in the INFANT Research Centre to identify the key risk factors for iron deficiency in pregnancy and early childhood. The project is funded by the Health Research Board of Ireland.

Principal Investigator: Dr Elaine McCarthy (

Co-Investigators: Prof Mairead Kiely, Professor Deirdre Murray, Dr Fergus McCarthy, Dr Brendan Murphy, Dr Ann-Marie Brennan.