JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Rapid relapse of thyroid dysfunction and goiter in school-age children after discontinuation of salt iodization.

BACKGROUND: In programs to control iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), sustainability is a major concern. IDD has recently recurred in countries where salt iodization programs have lapsed.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of the study was to describe the evolution of thyroid dysfunction after the discontinuation of salt iodization in a cohort of children in an area of severe endemic goiter.

DESIGN: Moroccan children (aged 6-16 y, n = 159) with severe IDD received iodized salt (IS) for 1 y. Because of practical and financial constraints, including a lack of infrastructure and electricity at the production site, salt iodization abruptly ceased. The children were followed for another 14 mo, and concentrations of urinary iodine, thyrotropin, total thyroxine, and thyroglobulin and thyroid volume were measured.

RESULTS: Before iodization, median urinary iodine was 18 microg/L, 88% of children had elevated serum thyroglobulin concentrations, and 72% were goitrous. One year after the introduction of IS, median urinary iodine and thyroglobulin concentrations had normalized, mean thyroid volume had decreased by 34%, and median thyrotropin and mean total thyroxine concentrations were improved. Five months after the discontinuation of salt iodization, median urinary iodine had fallen to 20 microg/L. Fourteen months after the discontinuation of salt iodization, the rate of goiter was again similar to the rate before salt iodization; median thyrotropin and thyroglobulin concentrations were sharply higher than before the introduction of IS (P < 0.001); and the prevalence of hypothyroidism was 10%, compared with 3% before the introduction of IS (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: In IDD-affected areas, cessation of salt iodization is associated with a rapid deterioration of thyroid function in school-age children. These findings underline the importance of sustainability in IDD control and the vulnerability of children to even short-term lapses in IS programs.

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