Objectives: To determine the presence of radical promoting iron (non-protein-bound or loosely bound or free iron) in the plasma of children with kwashiorkor.
Design: The bleomycin assay was employed for the quantitation of free or loosely bound iron.
Setting: The Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, Cape Town, Tertiary Care.
Subjects: Fifty children on admission with kwashiorkor: six with marasmus and twelve healthy well-nourished controls.
Results: Non-protein-bound iron was detected in the plasma of 58% of children with kwashiorkor but was absent in marasmic and healthy well-nourished children.
Conclusions: The presence of radical promoting iron supports the hypothesis that a free radical injury probably plays a role in the pathogenesis of kwashiorkor and its removal may improve mortality.