Vitamin B12 deficiency: Why refugee patients are at high risk

Jill Benson, Toni Maldari, Thomas Turnbull

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Vitamin B12 is one of the most complex vitamins. The measurement of serum levels and the significance of the results are much debated in the literature. Objective: This article discusses testing for vitamin B12 deficiency, its clinical manifestations and the possible repercussions for Australia's refugee population. Discussion: Full blood count and blood film, iron studies and haemoglobinopathy studies are routinely performed for newly arrived refugees in Australia. At the Migrant Health Service in Adelaide, South Australia, a young woman was found to have a very unusual blood picture with a normal mean cell volume, despite quite severe iron deficiency and thalassaemia trait. Her vitamin B12 was found to be 75 pmol/L. The following week there arose another case of an 11 month old breastfed baby with a vitamin B12 level of 52 pmol/L, whose mother had a level of 300 pmol/L. Understanding the clinical manifestations of vitamin B12 deficiency and how it is relevant to Australia's refugee population might assist to resolve some of the difficulties that refugees face in Australia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)215-217
    Number of pages3
    JournalAustralian Family Physician
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010


    • Diet
    • Refugee
    • Vitamin B12
    • Vulnerable populations (health)


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