L Role of Iron in Immunity and Infection

Solo Kuvibidila*1 and B. Surendra Baliga2

1 Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Pediatrics, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Box T8-1, 1542 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA;2Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, University of South Alabama, 2451 Fillingim Street, Mobile, AL 36617, USA

Iron is the fourth most common element on earth and is one of the most studied nutrients in human health (see Yip and Dallman, 1996). Iron exists in two main forms: ferric (Fe3+) and ferrous (Fe2+). The ease of oxidation and reduction of iron makes it a unique trace element for many cellular redox reactions. Iron is required by virtually all living cells for many biochemical reactions, especially for aerobic and anaerobic energy metabolism and cell proliferation (Cazzalo et al., 1990). In spite of our knowledge on the role of iron in human health related to haematology since the 18th century, the importance of iron in immunity was first recognized only in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This field evolved from clinical observations of an association between iron deficiency and infection (see Strauss, 1978; Humbert and Moore, 1983; Kuvibidila et al., 1989). It was later shown that some immune responses were altered by iron deficiency (see Dallman, 1987; Kuvibidila et al., 1989). This chapter will summarize the current knowledge of the effects of iron deficiency and iron overload on immunity and the implications for infection.

Between two-thirds and three-quarters of body iron circulates in blood in the form of haemoglobin. Iron status is evaluated by three methods: clinical evaluation, haematological and biochemical laboratory tests and therapeutic iron trials. The four blood indexes that distinguish iron deficiency, normal iron status and iron overload are serum ferritin concentration, blood haemoglobin concen-

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  • CAB Internationa! 2002. Nutrition and Immune Function
  • eds P.C. Calder, C.J. Field and H.S. Gill) 209
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