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Cent Afr J Med. 1997 Nov;43(11):334-9.

Tuberculosis and iron overload in Africa: a review.

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Department of Medicine, University of Zimbabwe Medical School, Avondale, Harare, Zimbabwe.


Both pulmonary tuberculosis and dietary iron overload are common conditions in sub-Saharan Africa. The incidence of tuberculosis has increased markedly over the last decade, primarily as a result of the rapid spread of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Dietary iron overload affects up to 10% of adults in rural populations and is characterized by heavy iron deposition both in parenchymal cells and in macrophages. Mycobacterium tuberculosis grows within macrophages and, at the same time, the antimicrobial function of macrophages is important in the body's defence against tuberculosis. In vitro, the loading of macrophages with iron reduces the response of these cells to activation by interferon-gamma and diminishes their toxicity against micro-organisms. In the clinical setting, dietary iron overload appears to increase the risk for death from tuberculosis even in the absence of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. The combination of dietary iron overload and infection with the HIV, with impaired function of both macrophages and T-cells, may make patients especially vulnerable to tuberculosis. It is possible that the prevention and treatment of dietary iron overload could contribute to the control of tuberculosis in African populations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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