Impact Factor


Front. Pharmacol., 06 May 2014 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2014.00084

Influence of host iron status on Plasmodium falciparum infection

  • 1Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  • 2Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Iron deficiency affects one quarter of the world's population and causes significant morbidity, including detrimental effects on immune function and cognitive development. Accordingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends routine iron supplementation in children and adults in areas with a high prevalence of iron deficiency. However, a large body of clinical and epidemiological evidence has accumulated which clearly demonstrates that host iron deficiency is protective against falciparum malaria and that host iron supplementation may increase the risk of malaria. Although many effective antimalarial treatments and preventive measures are available, malaria remains a significant public health problem, in part because the mechanisms of malaria pathogenesis remain obscured by the complexity of the relationships that exist between parasite virulence factors, host susceptibility traits, and the immune responses that modulate disease. Here we review (i) the clinical and epidemiological data that describes the relationship between host iron status and malaria infection and (ii) the current understanding of the biological basis for these clinical and epidemiological observations.

Keywords: malaria, iron, iron deficiency anemia, Plasmodium falciparum, iron supplementation

Citation: Clark MA, Goheen MM and Cerami C (2014) Influence of host iron status on Plasmodium falciparum infection. Front. Pharmacol. 5:84. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2014.00084

Received: 15 January 2014; Paper pending published: 12 March 2014;
Accepted: 04 April 2014; Published online: 06 May 2014.

Edited by:

Raffaella Gozzelino, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal

Reviewed by:

Leann Tilley, Melbourne University, Australia
Akira Kaneko, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Copyright © 2014 Clark, Goheen and Cerami. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Carla Cerami, Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB# 7435, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA e-mail: ccerami@unc.edu