Bortolussi CMA Journal Article on Listeriosis – An Open Response by Marie Warder

Posted October 26th, 2008 by webadmin

Dear Doctor Bortolussi, Please forgive the impertinence of an amateur like myself, in taking the liberty of commenting on your excellent article. However, having devoted more than thirty years of my life to the well-being of families with Hemochromatosis, I do believe the omission of ‘persons with iron overload’ among your list of those most at risk, to have been an oversight.

If, as the experts tell us, iron is an essential growth factor for the multiplication of most bacteria, viruses, and even some cancers, it explains why the people I personally know of, who were afflicted with Listeriosis from eating unpasteurized soft cheeses, were hemochromatotic; as was one who nearly lost his hand because of Pasteurella from a cat bite.

In a 1986 issue of “Among Ourselves”, the newsletter of the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society, we printed the following:

Warnings have been issued in a number of medical journal articles, including one in the April 1985 FDA Drug Bulletin, to patients with chronic liver diseases (including hemochromatosis) not to eat raw clams or oysters, and undercooked seafood, and in the event of open wounds to avoid bathing in salt water because of the danger of a virulent Vibrio bacteria (Vibrio Vulnificus). Treatment with tetracycline is specific.

In a letter to the editor of JAMA, June 19, 1987-Vol 257, no 23, the writers, Claudio Chiesa MD, Lucia Pacifico MD, Francesco Renzulli MD, and Mario Midulla, MD, of La Sapienza University of Rome, and Laura Garlaschi MD, of the University of Milan, reported: “From 1978 to 1986, in Italy, almost all cases of severe clinical disease due to Yersinia enterocolitica septicemia, developed in subjects with iron overload with hemochromatosis. Therefore, when confronted with this unusual problem, the diagnosis of hemochromatosis should be entertained.”

It is my personal contention that, in situations like the Walkerton E-coli outbreak, and the developing salmonella problem, hemochromatotics should always be considered to be at great risk. In fact, iron stores – particularly the Transferrin Saturation Percentage – should be monitored in all afflicted individuals. Not only would this be good for the patient (as in the case of patients treated with Interferon), but it would provide researchers with an invaluable opportunity for research.


Marie Warder, CVMH CVCH Founder and President Emeritus: Canadian Hemochromatosis Society