Proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are attractive next-generation power sources for use in vehicles and other applications(1), with development efforts focusing on improving the catalyst system of the fuel cell. One problem is catalyst poisoning by impurity gases such as carbon monoxide (CO), which typically comprises about one per cent of hydrogen fuel(2-4). A possible solution is on-board hydrogen purification, which involves preferential oxidation of CO in hydrogen (PROX)(3-7). However, this approach is challenging(8-15) because the catalyst needs to be active and selective towards CO oxidation over a broad range of low temperatures so that CO is efficiently removed (to below 50 parts per million) during continuous PEMFC operation (at about 353 kelvin) and, in the case of automotive fuel cells, during frequent cold-start periods. Here we show that atomically dispersed iron hydroxide, selectively deposited on silica-supported platinum (Pt) nanoparticles, enables complete and 100 per cent selective CO removal through the PROX reaction over the broad temperature range of 198 to 380 kelvin. We find that the mass-specific activity of this system is about 30 times higher than that of more conventional catalysts consisting of Pt on iron oxide supports. In situ X-ray absorption fine-structure measurements reveal that most of the iron hydroxide exists as Fe-1(OH)(x) clusters anchored on the Pt nanoparticles, with density functional theory calculations indicating that Fe-1(OH)(x)-Pt single interfacial sites can readily react with CO and facilitate oxygen activation. These findings suggest that in addition to strategies that target oxide-supported precious-metal nanoparticles or isolated metal atoms, the deposition of isolated transition-metal complexes offers new ways of designing highly active metal catalysts.