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BACKGROUND: Before its recognition, infantile beriberi was the leading cause of infant death in camps for displaced persons of the Karen ethnic minority on Thailand's western border. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to document thiamine status in the peripartum period to examine the current supplementation program and the correlation between the clinical manifestations of thiamine deficiency and a biochemical measure of thiamine status. DESIGN: Women were enrolled prospectively at 30 wk of gestation and were followed up weekly until delivery and at 3 mo postpartum. Thiamine supplementation during pregnancy was based on patient symptoms. RESULTS: At 3 mo postpartum, thiamine deficiency reflected by an erythrocyte transketolase activity (ETKA) > or = 1.20% was found in 57.7% (15/26) of mothers, 26.9% (7/26) of whom had severe deficiency (ETKA > 1.25%). No significant associations between ETKA and putative maternal symptoms or use of thiamine supplements were found. CONCLUSIONS: Biochemical postpartum thiamine deficiency is still common in Karen refugee women. This situation may be improved by educating lactating women to reduce their consumption of thiaminase-containing foods and by implementing an effective thiamine supplementation program.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Clin Nutr

Publication Date





808 - 813


Adolescent, Adult, Cohort Studies, Dietary Supplements, Erythrocytes, Female, Humans, Hydrolases, Infant, Newborn, Lactation, Milk, Human, Postpartum Period, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Outcome, Prenatal Care, Prospective Studies, Refugees, Thailand, Thiamine, Thiamine Deficiency, Transketolase