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Excess iron intake increases risk of intestinal infections, study suggests

esses, including the binding and release of oxygen by red blood cells.

In their experiments, Failla and his colleagues exposed cells to a common form of iron that is present in iron supplements. Iron-laden cells were then exposed to Salmonella enteritidis, a bacterium that causes intestinal infections in humans. Infection from Salmonella enteritidis often results from eating undercooked eggs, and is accompanied by fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

The scientists found that cells containing high levels of iron were more easily invaded by the bacteria. Moreover, greater numbers of bacteria survived inside cells with high iron than cells with normal amounts of iron.

Cells with elevated levels of iron also synthesized higher amounts of cytokines and chemokines - classes of defense proteins -- in response to bacterial infection. The secretion of many of these proteins is associated with the development of inflammation.

"The finding suggests that excess iron in the absorptive cells in the gut may increase both the risk of infection and damage other tissues in the intestine in response to the greater degree of inflammation," Failla said.

To prevent iron overload, the researchers suggest a revision of the standard policy of iron fortification of the general population. They recommend periodic evaluation of the iron status of individuals, particularly women in the reproductive period of their
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Contact: Mark Failla
failla.3@osu.edu
614-292-4485
Ohio State University
15-Oct-2001


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