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Benefits and Risks of Iron Supplementation in Anemic Neonatal Pigs

American Journal Of Pathology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.2353/ajpath.2010.091020
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Hepatobiliary And Pancreatic Pathology
  • Medicine


Iron deficiency is a common health problem. The most severe consequence of this disorder is iron deficiency anemia (IDA), which is considered the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. Newborn piglets are an ideal model to explore the multifaceted etiology of IDA in mammals, as IDA is the most prevalent deficiency disorder throughout the early postnatal period in this species and frequently develops into a critical illness. Here, we report the very low expression of duodenal iron transporters in pigs during the first days of life. We postulate that this low expression level is why the iron demands of the piglet body are not met by iron absorption during this period. Interestingly, we found that a low level of duodenal divalent metal transporter 1 and ferroportin, two iron transporters located on the apical and basolateral membrane of duodenal absorptive enterocytes, respectively, correlates with abnormally high expression of hepcidin, despite the poor hepatic and overall iron status of these animals. Parenteral iron supplementation by a unique intramuscular administration of large amounts of iron dextran is current practice for the treatment of IDA in piglets. However, the potential toxicity of such supplemental iron implies the necessity for caution when applying this treatment. Here we demonstrate that a modified strategy for iron supplementation of newborn piglets with iron dextran improves the piglets’ hematological status, attenuates the induction of hepcidin expression, and minimizes the toxicity of the administered iron.

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