NORD gratefully acknowledges Pradyumna D. Phatak, MD, FACP, Medical Director, Lipson Cancer/Blood Center, Rochester General Hospital, and Clinical Professor of Medicine, UR School of Medicine, for assistance in the preparation of this report.
African iron overload is a rare disorder characterized abnormally elevated levels of iron in the body. The name originates from the initial description of this entity in sub-Saharan Africa, in communities where affected individuals drink a traditional, homemade beer that contains a high amount of iron. Symptoms may vary from case to case but can include the accumulation of fibrous tissue (fibrosis) in the liver and, eventually, scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). The exact cause of African iron overload is unknown, but researchers believe that a combination of dietary and genetic factors result in the development of the disorder.
Researches originally believed that the popular, iron-rich beer caused cases of African iron overload. However, many individuals that drank the beer did not develop the disorder and some individuals that did not drink the beer did develop it. This led researchers to speculate that a mutation of a gene or genes involved in the transport or breakdown (metabolism) of iron must play a role in the development of African iron overload. Such a gene has not yet been identified.
The information in NORD’s Rare Disease Database is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a physician or other qualified medical professional.
The content of the website and databases of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) is copyrighted and may not be reproduced, copied, downloaded or disseminated, in any way, for any commercial or public purpose, without prior written authorization and approval from NORD. Individuals may print one hard copy of an individual disease for personal use, provided that content is unmodified and includes NORD’s copyright.
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Ave., Danbury CT 06810 • (203)744-0100