Iron and microbial infection

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2004 Dec;2(12):946-53. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1046.


The use of iron as a cofactor in basic metabolic pathways is essential to both pathogenic microorganisms and their hosts. It is also a pivotal component of the innate immune response through its role in the generation of toxic oxygen and nitrogen intermediates. During evolution, the shared requirement of micro- and macroorganisms for this important nutrient has shaped the pathogen-host relationship. Here, we discuss how pathogens compete with the host for iron, and also how the host uses iron to counteract this threat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Active
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis
  • Superoxides / metabolism


  • Superoxides
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Iron