Adaptive immunity and vaccination – iron in the spotlight
Preston AE., Drakesmith H., Frost JN.
Summary Vaccination programmes are critically important to suppress the burden of infectious diseases, saving countless lives globally, as emphasised by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Effective adaptive immune responses are complex processes subject to multiple influences. Recent genetic, pre-clinical, and clinical studies have converged to show that availability of iron is a key factor regulating the development of T and B cell responses to infection and immunisation. Lymphocytes obtain iron from circulating transferrin. The amount of iron bound to transferrin is dependent on dietary iron availability and is decreased during inflammation via upregulation of the iron-regulatory hormone, hepcidin. As iron deficiency and chronic inflammatory states are both globally prevalent health problems, the potential impact of low iron availability on immune responses is significant. We describe the evidence supporting the importance of iron in immunity, highlight important unknowns, and discuss how therapeutic interventions to modulate iron availability might be implementable in the context of vaccination and infectious disease.