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Evaluation of iron status in lemurs by analysis of serum iron and ferritin concentrations, total iron-binding capacity, and transferrin saturation

Cathy V. Williams DVM1, Randall E. Junge MS, DVM, DACZM2, and Ilse H. Stalis DVM, DACVP3
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  • 1 Duke Lemur Center, Duke University, Durham, NC 27705.
  • | 2 St Louis Zoological Park, 1 Government Dr, St Louis, MO 63110.
  • | 3 Zoological Society of San Diego, 1354 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101.

Abstract

Objective—To assess serum iron and ferritin concentrations, total iron-binding capacity, and transferrin saturation as indicators of iron metabolic status in 3 genera of lemurs and determine whether these variables are useful for screening for iron overload.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Animals—11 ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), 11 black lemurs (Eulemur macaco macaco), and 11 red-ruffed lemurs (Varecia rubra).

Procedures—Blood samples were collected weekly for 3 weeks and assayed for serum iron and ferritin concentrations and total iron-binding capacity. Liver biopsy specimens were evaluated histologically and assayed for total iron, nonheme iron, and trace mineral concentrations. Deposition of iron was scored on Prussian blue–stained slides.

Results—Hepatic iron content ranged from 497 to 12,800 Pg/g dry weight (median, 2,165 Pg/g). Differences were seen in mean hepatic iron content across genera, with ruffed lemurs having the highest concentrations and ring-tailed lemurs having the lowest. Iron accumulation in the liver was mild, and cellular pathologic changes associated with iron storage disease were not detected in any lemur. Ferritin concentration was the only variable that correlated significantly with hepatic iron content in all 3 genera of lemurs; however, both transferrin saturation and serum iron concentration were correlated with hepatic iron concentration in ring-tailed and ruffed lemurs.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Serum ferritin concentration was the only variable that was consistently correlated with hepatic iron content in all 3 genera. Mean hepatic iron content varied across genera, suggesting that the propensity for lemurs to develop iron overload in captivity may vary across taxa.

Contributor Notes

Supported by Purina Mills LLC and the National Science Foundation, grant No. DBI-0200748. Anatomic pathology work was fully supported by the Zoological Society of San Diego.

Address correspondence to Dr. Williams.