Background: To successfully sustain an infection, nearly all bacteria, fungi and protozoa require a continuous supply of host iron.
Methods: Literature review.
Results: Mechanisms of microbial iron acquisition are determinants for the kinds of cells, tissues and hosts in which pathogens can flourish. As a corollary, hosts possess an array of iron withholding devices whereby they can suppress or abort microbial invasions.
General significance: Awareness of environmental and behavioral methods that can prevent iron loading plus development of pharmaceutical agents that can block microbial access to iron may help to reduce our dependence on antibiotics.