Fe-deficiency anaemia is the most common cause of anaemia in developing countries. In these settings, many chronic infections, including tuberculosis (TB), are highly prevalent. Fe is an essential nutrient for both host and mycobacteria that play a pivotal role in host immunity and mycobacterial growth. A case–control study was performed in a TB-endemic region in Jakarta, Indonesia, among 378 pulmonary TB patients and 436 healthy controls from the same neighbourhood with the same socio-economic status. In a number of these subjects the Fe status could be explored. The distribution of three polymorphisms in the natural resistance-associated macrophage protein gene (NRAMP1) including INT4, D543N and 3′UTR was examined for a possible association with susceptibility to TB. Anaemia (corrected for sex) was present in 63·2 % of active TB compared with 6·8 % of controls, with female patients more often affected. Anaemia was more pronounced in advanced TB as diagnosed by chest radiography. Lower Hb concentrations in TB patients were accompanied by lower plasma Fe concentrations, lower Fe-binding capacity and higher plasma ferritin. After successful TB therapy, Fe parameters improved towards control values and Hb levels normalised, even without Fe supplementation. NRAMP1 gene polymorphisms were not associated with TB susceptibility, TB severity or anaemia. In conclusion, most active TB patients had anaemia, which was probably due to inflammation and not to Fe deficiency since TB treatment without Fe supplementation was sufficient to restore Hb concentration.