The role of iron in experimental infection of mice with Trypanosoma cruzi was investigated. B6 mice had a transient parasitemia and a transient anemia, both of maximal intensity 28 d after the inoculation of T. cruzi. There was a biphasic hypoferremic host response to infection with T. cruzi with the peak hypoferremia also occurring 28 d after inoculation of the parasite. The mortality rate from infection was increased from 23% in phosphate-buffered saline-treated B6 mice to 50% in a group of B6 mice receiving iron-dextran (P less than or equal to 0.025), whereas depletion of iron stores with the iron chelator desferrioxamine B and an iron-deficient diet provided complete protection of B6 mice (P less than or equal to 0.05). The mortality rate in the highly susceptible C3H strain was reduced from 100% in the control group to 45% (P less than or equal to 0.025) in the iron-depleted group. The tissue iron stores were altered in mice receiving either iron-dextran or desferrioxamine B and an iron-deficient diet. In vitro, T. cruzi was shown to require both a heme and a nonheme iron source for an optimal growth rate. The effects of iron excess or depletion on the outcome of infection with T. cruzi correlated both with the growth requirements of the parasite for iron and with the availability of intracellular iron. Thus, it was suggested that the hypoferremic response, by sequestering iron within intracellular stores, potentially enhanced the pathogenicity of the intracellular parasites. Furthermore, the in vivo effects of iron excess and depletion correlated with an effect of iron on the growth rate and pathogenicity of the parasite.
R G Lalonde, B E Holbein