Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Impaired phagocytic activity of neutrophils in patients receiving haemodialysis: the critical role of iron overload.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 291 doi: (Published 24 August 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;291:501
  1. Y Waterlot,
  2. B Cantinieaux,
  3. C Hariga-Muller,
  4. E De Maertelaere-Laurent,
  5. J L Vanherweghem,
  6. P Fondu


    The metabolic burst (as measured by the spontaneous and stimulated nitroblue tetrazolium tests), the phagocytosis of heat inactivated bakers' yeast and of Staphylococcus aureus, the killing of Staph aureus, and the myeloperoxidase activity of polymorphonuclear neutrophils were studied in 11 patients receiving maintenance haemodialysis. Of these patients, six were polytransfused and had high serum ferritin concentrations (mean 5940 (SD 2925) micrograms/l; group 1), and five had normal serum ferritin values (mean 171 (116) micrograms/l; group 2). Patients in group 1 had a history of more infectious episodes (0.167 v 0.025 per patient per month) and significantly more genitourinary infections (p = 0.015) than those in group 2. Phagocytosis and myeloperoxidase activity were severely reduced in group 1 but normal in group 2. Percentages of neutrophils ingesting one or more particles together with the index of phagocytosis in patients' serum were inversely correlated with serum ferritin concentrations. Four patients in group 1 were treated with desferrioxamine, and after six to 18 weeks of treatment phagocytosis and myeloperoxidase activity had returned to normal in three of them. These data suggest that in patients receiving haemodialysis iron overload due to multiple transfusions plays an important part in the mechanisms underlying the susceptibility to bacterial infections, mediated at least partially through impaired neutrophil function.