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What is African Siderosis & How is it Treated?|Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis of African Siderosis

What is African Siderosis?

African Siderosis refers to the disorder caused by the presence of excessive iron in a person and it was noticed for the very first time in parts of Africa that includes South Africa and Central Africa. It is also known by the name of Dietary Iron Overload or Bantu Siderosis.

African Siderosis is the outcome of excessive consumption of iron through the intake of high amount of beer brewed at home produced in some pots or drums made of iron. The level of content of iron present in the beer brewed at home consists almost 46 to 82 mg/l which is quite high when compared to the beer present in the shops. The African Siderosis is quite widespread among both the urban and rural black masses of the African population. Since the commercial beer got introduced among the urban masses there has been considerable deduction in the level of Bantu Siderosis disease. However the level of the disorder is quite widespread among the rural masses. Studies have also recommended that genetics do have a part to play in the particular disorder and phlebotomy can be used for the treatment of this particular disorder.

Causes of African Siderosis

African Siderosis was first seen among the rural masses of the central and southern part of Africa who drinks beer brewed at home in the uncoated iron pots or drums. However it is not mandatory that every person who drinks home-brewed beer is affected by African Siderosis or every person who is affected by African Siderosis is not necessary to be a beer drinking person. Hence the scientists are trying to look out for reasons that would show the distinctions between the genes of people and the various situations that lead to the growth of African Siderosis in people.

Certain research works have shown that a difference in the gene SLC40A1 increases the possibility of a person to catch the African Siderosis disorder. This difference is generally seen to affect within the range of 5% to 20% of the total African masses but is not usually common in the other communities[1].

The SLC40A1 gene serves guidance for the making of ferroprotein which helps in the immersion of the iron into the body. Iron from the dietary habits of the person is soaked by the small intestinal walls and ferroprotein transfers this iron to the bloodstream which then transfers the mineral into different parts of the body. The particular amount of iron that is consumed by the body depends on the amount of iron that is reserved and liberated from the cells present in the intestinal walls and macrophages.

Symptoms of African Siderosis

The signs and symptoms of the African Siderosis differ from person to person and mostly affects the middle aged and older population. The persons who get affected by African Siderosis generally experiences unusual growth of the liver and this condition is known as the hepatomegaly. In certain serious cases there is collection of the fibrous tissue which is also known as the fibrosis, grows in the main artery called the portal vein that transfers blood to the liver may cause a rise in the blood pressure level in the particular patient which is also known as the portal hypertension. Unnatural fluid storage in the intestinal chamber may lead to inflammation. In certain cases chances of cirrhosis and gradual collapse of the liver may also take place.

Supplementary information regarding the sign of the African Siderosis has been provided by the researchers and they also state that the symptoms are generally dependent on the varying severity and particular portion of the collection of iron. The patient may suffer from diabetes due to the excessive collection of iron in the small part present at the back of the stomach that generates insulin and is called pancreas. Diabetes is a general disorder in which the body fails to generate enough insulin.

There are few more symptoms that are related to the African Siderosis or African Iron Overload and they may incorporate the thinning of the bone and irregularities in the heart. There is also an increased risk in the vulnerability of the person to develop contagion which may include tuberculosis, oesophageal cancer or prime cancer that is caused in the liver and is known as hepatocellular carcinoma is more common in people affected by African Siderosis.

Diagnosis of African Siderosis

The diagnosis of the African Siderosis depends on the recognition of the symptoms that are present, details regarding medical history of the patients apart from the highly advanced tests which include various blood tests which will help in the revelation of the increased ferritin levels present in the blood plasma. The protein that helps to hold together iron and is utilized for the indication of the iron accumulated in the body is known as ferritin. The protein that helps to distribute iron to different parts of the body by transferring it from the intestine to the bloodstream is known as transferrin.

African Siderosis Affected Population

African Siderosis doesn’t differentiate between the male population and female population and affects both in same numbers. The perfect rate or frequency of the disorder is however still not known. It has been seen quite prevalent and widespread in a lot of countries based in the sub-Saharan area of Africa. The scientists have exclaimed that in most of the times African Siderosis passes without even getting recognized or due to the lack of proper diagnosis which is why it becomes hard to determine the actual rate of occurrence of the disorder in the normal population. Some evaluation works recommends that it is more than 10% of the demographic structure of the sub-Saharan part of Africa that gets affected.

Many cases have been reported where the person got affected by such disorder as a result of inheritance who all happens to be inhabitants of other countries belonging to the African ancestry. However it is still not known whether the African Siderosis which affects people due to consumption of high iron content beer is similar to the African Siderosis that affects people as a consequence of inheritance.

Treatment of African Siderosis

There are certain treatments available for treating the African Siderosis which includes consistent ejection of the blood through a vein when suffering from the disorder of having excessive iron and this procedure is known as phlebotomy or venesection. This is the most commonly used method for treating the patients suffering from African Siderosis. Studies regarding the medicinal properties of phlebotomy in persons suffering from African Siderosis are still incomplete. However if phlebotomy is authorised and studied extensively it would turn out to be the most standard method of treatment for people suffering from African Iron Overload. Recommendations regarding the genetic studies are also made as it would prove to be advantageous for the affected personals and their family.

There have been supplementary treatments for African Siderosis. This may include iron chelator in which the drug named iron chelator is used to combine the iron with itself which would result in the breaking down of the iron into the water and ultimately move out of the body through urination. More of extensive studies are required to ascertain the efficacy of such treatment in the long run in patients suffering from the condition of having excessive iron present in the body such as African Siderosis.


It is not always necessary that only when a person drinks home brewed beer which has high level of iron content gets affected by African Siderosis. It may also occur to people who don’t drink beer. Sometimes African Siderosis is caused due to inheritance. It may cause the damage of various organs and tissues of the body. Studies have found out the different causes, type of people getting affected and various treatment procedures for African Siderosis, however extensive research works are still required to be done to know more in-depth.


  1. Gillman, T., Lamont, N., Hathorn, M., & Canham, P. HÆMOCHROMATOSIS, AFRICAN NUTRITIONAL SIDEROSIS, AND EXPERIMENTAL SIDEROSIS IN ANIMALS. The Lancet, (1957). 173-175. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(57)90620-7
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 28, 2019

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