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January 1981

Infections and Iron: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Author Affiliations

Department of Pediatrics State University Hospital 750 E Adams St Syracuse, NY 13210

Am J Dis Child. 1981;135(1):18-20. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1981.02130250006003

The hypothesis that an iron-rich environment in the host predisposes to infection continues to raise questions about the safety of large parenteral doses of iron, of orally administered iron, and even of the smaller quantities of iron found in iron-fortified foods. This commentary focuses on the background of laboratory data that establishes the link between iron and increased bacterial virulence and surveys the existing clinical data related to iron administration and increased susceptibility to infection.

POSSIBLE MECHANISMS RELATED TO IRON AND INFECTION  There are several theoretical ways in which iron administration might be associated with an increased risk of infection. It is well known that iron plays an important role in the metabolism of many bacterial species. Additionally, iron can negate the bacteriostatic effects of iron-binding proteins such as transferrin and lactoferrin, which are present in serum as well as in human and cow's milk. Another mechanism by which iron

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