The Ukinga and Uwanji regions, located in the southern highlands of Tanzania, were studied for the degree of iodine deficiency and the incidence of goitre and hypothyroidism, respectively. A urinary iodine excretion as low as 17.6 +/- 9.3 micrograms/g creatinine was observed in Wangama village. The mean goitre prevalence in 27 villages in Uwanji ranged between 65 and 96% (n = 3031 schoolchildren). Of 681 pregnant women from Ukinga 79.6% had goitre. The prevalence of cretinism as estimated on clinical criteria was 3% in Magoye (Uwanji). A normal serum TSH (below 2.1 mU/l) was observed in only 12 out of 66 school children before iodine prophylaxis, whereas the T4/TBG ratio was decreased in 36 of 63 cases. Blood spot TSH levels in newborn infants (n = 219) from mothers without iodine supplementation were above 12 mU/l in 45%. In contrast, only 20.3% of the newborn (n = 118) had elevated blood spot TSH (p less than 0.002) when the mothers had received an iodised oil injection during pregnancy. Most of the newborn (n = 18; 75%) of the latter group with elevated TSH (n = 24) came from mothers who had received the iodine injection only 1-25 days before delivery. Maternal iodine prophylaxis in late pregnancy does not increase the rate of neonatal hypothyroidism. Conclusions: It has been confirmed that severe iodine deficiency resulting in endemic goitre, cretinism, and hypothyroidism is prevalent in the regions studied. Dried blood spot TSH determinations may serve as an index for the efficiency of iodine prophylaxis programmes. Such a programme was carried out with relatively little expenditure and effort on a large scale basis.
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