Catalytically active iron and bacterial growth in serum of haemodialysis patients after i.v. iron-saccharate administration

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2000 Nov;15(11):1827-34. doi: 10.1093/ndt/15.11.1827.


Background: I.v. iron is commonly administered to haemodialysis patients suffering from anaemia to improve their response to erythropoietin therapy. It has been unclear whether routinely used doses of i.v. iron preparations could result in iron release into plasma in amounts exceeding the iron binding capacity of transferrin. Here, we have studied the effect of 100 mg of iron saccharate given as an i.v. injection on transferrin saturation and the appearance of potentially harmful catalytically active iron.

Methods: We followed serum iron, transferrin and transferrin-saturation before and 5-210 min after administration of iron saccharate in 12 patients on chronic haemodialysis due to end-stage renal disease. We measured catalytically active iron by the bleomycin-detectable iron (BDI) assay and transferrin iron forms by urea gel electrophoresis, and studied iron-dependent growth of Staphylococcus epidermidis inoculated into the serum samples in vitro.

Results: The iron saccharate injection resulted in full transferrin saturation and appearance of BDI in the serum in seven out of the 12 patients. BDI appeared more often in patients with a low serum transferrin concentration, but it was not possible to identify patients at risk based on serum transferrin or ferritin level before i.v. iron. The average transferrin saturation and BDI level increased until the end of the follow-up time of 3.5 h. The appearance of BDI resulted in loss of the ability of patient serum to resist the growth of S. epidermidis, which was restored by adding iron-free apotransferrin to the serum. Iron saccharate, added to serum in vitro, released only little iron and promoted only slow bacterial growth, but caused falsely high transferrin saturation by one routinely used serum iron assay.

Conclusions: The results indicate that 100 mg of iron saccharate often leads to transferrin oversaturation and the presence of catalytically active iron within 3.5 h after i.v. injection. As catalytically active iron is potentially toxic and may promote bacterial growth, it may be recommendable to use dosage regimens for i.v. iron that would not cause transferrin oversaturation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bleomycin
  • Erythropoietin / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Ferric Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Ferric Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Ferric Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Ferric Oxide, Saccharated
  • Glucaric Acid
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Iron / blood*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / blood*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Renal Dialysis* / adverse effects
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / growth & development*
  • Transferrin / analysis


  • Ferric Compounds
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Transferrin
  • Bleomycin
  • Erythropoietin
  • Iron
  • Ferric Oxide, Saccharated
  • Glucaric Acid