Iron Storage Disease in Captive Egyptian Fruit Bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus): Relationship of Blood Iron Parameters to Hepatic Iron Concentrations and Hepatic Histopathology

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Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine






American Association of Zoo Veterinarians

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This study evaluated the relationship between blood iron parameters and hepatic iron concentrations, and correlation of histologic findings with hepatic iron concentrations in a captive population of Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) and island flying foxes (Pteropus hypomelanus). Blood samples were collected for complete blood counts, plasma biochemical profiles, serum iron concentrations, total iron-binding capacity, whole-blood lead concentrations, and plasma ferritin assays. Liver samples obtained by laparotomy were divided, with one half processed for histologic examination and the other half frozen and submitted for tissue mineral analysis. The histologic sections were scored by two blinded observers for iron deposition, necrosis, and fibrosis. The Egyptian fruit bats had significantly higher liver iron (mean = 3,669 ± 1,823 ppm) and lead (mean = 8.9 ± 5.8 ppm) concentrations than the island flying foxes (mean [Fe] = 174 ± 173 ppm, mean [Pb] = 1.9 ± 0.5 ppm). Hepatic iron concentrations significantly correlated with tissue lead concentrations, histologic grading for iron and necrosis, serum iron, transferrin saturation, and plasma ferritin (P < 0.001). Blood lead concentrations negatively correlated with tissue lead concentrations (P < 0.001). When the product of transferrin saturation and serum iron was greater than 51, an individual animal had a high probability of having iron overload. When the product of these two variables was greater than 90, there was a high probability that the animal had hemochromatosis. On the basis of this study, it appears that evaluation of serum iron, transferrin saturation, and plasma ferritin are useful and noninvasive methods for diagnosis of hemochromatosis in Egyptian fruit bats.