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Intern Med. 2003 Aug;42(8):644-9.

Alcohol consumption, hepatic iron load and the risk of amoebic liver abscess: a case-control study.

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Department of Medicine, Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research, India.



It is unknown why most amoebic liver abscess (ALA) cases occur in alcohol drinkers. In experimental studies, the presence of 'iron' potentiates the in-vitro growth of Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica), and is also known to increase its in-vivo invasiveness in animal infections. Chronic alcoholism increases the hepatic iron deposition. We hypothesized that ALA occurs more commonly in livers with a high iron load as in alcoholics. To test this hypothesis we compared the levels of iron between ALA and non-ALA cases belonging to alcoholic and non-alcoholic groups.


Out of a total of 48 ALA cases, 34 (70%) were alcoholics and 14 (30%) were non-alcoholics. After applying exclusion criteria, serum iron and liver iron stores were quantified in 20 ALA cases (10 alcoholic and 10 non-alcoholics) and compared with 20 non-ALA cases (10 alcoholics and 10 non-alcoholics).


All patients of ALA had serum iron values within the normal range but higher than non-ALA cases. In the liver tissue, most patients with ALA had higher (grade II or III) iron deposition, than non-ALA cases (mostly grade I). Thus, patients with ALA, with or without alcohol indulgence, had higher iron levels when compared to the non-ALA cases.


It appears that the higher incidence of ALA in alcoholic livers is possibly due to their higher iron content.

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