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Open Access Iron storage diseases in birds

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Parenteral iron is toxic to many species but, because the uptake of iron from the diet is regulated in the intestine, acute intoxication is not seen under natural conditions. Chronic ingestion of large amounts of absorbable iron in the diet can lead to the storage of iron in the liver in many species, including humans. The excess iron is stored within hepatocytes as haemosiderin and can be quantitatively assessed by liver biopsy or at necropsy using special stains such as Perls iron stain and/or biochemical tests. Iron may also be found within the Kupffer cells in the liver and the macrophage cells of the spleen especially where concurrent diseases are present such as haemolytic anaemia, septicaemia, neoplasia and starvation. Iron accumulation in the liver, also known as haemosiderosis, may not always be associated with clinical disease although in severe cases hepatic damage may occur. It is probable that concurrent disease conditions are largely responsible for the degree and nature of the pathological changes described in most cases of haemosiderosis. In some human individuals there may be a genetic predisposition to iron storage disease, haemochromatosis, associated with poor regulation of iron uptake across the intestine. In severe cases iron pigment will be found in the liver, spleen, gut wall, kidney and heart with subsequent development of ascites, heart failure and multisystem pathology. Clinical disease associated with accumulation of iron in the liver, and other tissues, has been reported in many species of bird although it is most commonly reported in Indian hill mynas (Gracula religiosa) and toucans (Ramphastos sp). It is likely that the tolerance to the build up of tissue iron varies in individual species of bird and that the predominant predisposing factors may differ, even within closely related taxonomic groups.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2000

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