Iron metabolism, balance of red cell production and destruction and iron absorption from hemoglobin were determined in 11 patients with heavy hookworm infection and severe anemia.
The plasma iron, total iron binding capacity, bone marrow hemosiderin and plasma Fe59 clearance are in agreement with the idea that the anemia associated with hookworm infection is of the iron deficiency type.
The rate of red cell production measured by the E/M ratio, absolute reticulocyte count and plasma iron turnover showed an increase to about twice normal, while the rate of destruction estimated by the T ½ erythrocyte survival showed a destruction about 5 times normal. This unbalance between production and destruction could explain the severity of the anemia.
The increase of fecal urobilinogen output to twice normal was interpreted as due to the metabolism of the hemoglobin lost into the intestine rather than to an increase of hemolysis.
The estimation of fecal blood loss in the patients whose red cells were tagged with Cr51 and Fe59, showed that the radioactivity counted with Fe59 was only about 63 per cent of the radioactivity counted with Cr51. This difference was interpreted as due to iron absorption from the hemoglobin lost into the intestine.
The mean daily fecal excretion of iron reaches 4.7 mg. Since the iron metabolism in these patients is in equilibrium, we have concluded that the iron loss is replaced by the iron from food; this is in addition to the 3 mg. hemoglobin iron which is reabsorbed from the blood lost into the gut.