Compound in E. coli could help end iron deficiency

September 10, 2018

A bacteria well-known for making people sick may hold the key to beating a common health problem in the United States.

Researchers at the University of Colorado have found that E. coli, which has been blamed for multiple outbreaks of food poisoning, produces a compound that can help move iron into the body more efficiently.

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional problems in this country, and it also is the most-common reasons for deferring potential blood donors. (South Texas Blood & Tissue Center launched a pilot program in August to boost iron levels in teenaged blood donors – click here to learn more.)

The study, reported in the journal The Cell and summarized in the Denver Post, showed that a compound produced by E. coli called enterobactin increases iron levels in cells. The study showed the effect roundworms, and research now is underway with mice.

Min Han, a professor in CU’s Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, said he hoped the research will lead to an alternative to iron supplements.

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