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Screening for galactosemia: is there a place for it?

Authors Kotb MA, Mansour L, Shamma RA

Received 28 January 2019

Accepted for publication 16 April 2019

Published 23 May 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 193—205


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Magd A Kotb, Lobna Mansour, Radwa A Shamma

Pediatrics Department, Faculty of Medicine, Kasr Al Ainy, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt

Abstract: Galactose is a hexose essential for production of energy, which has a prebiotic role and is essential for galactosylation of endogenous and exogenous proteins, ceramides, myelin sheath metabolism and others. The inability to metabolize galactose results in galactosemia. Galactosemia is an autosomal recessive disorder that affects newborns who are born asymptomatic, apparently well and healthy, then develop serious morbidity and mortality upon consuming milk that contains galactose. Those with galactosemia have a deficiency of an enzyme: classic galactosemia (type 1) results from severe deficiency of galactose-1-uridylyltransferase, while galactosemia type II results from galactokinase deficiency and type III results from galactose epimerase deficiency. Many countries include neonatal screening for galactosemia in their national newborn screening program; however, others do not, as the condition is rather rare, with an incidence of 1:30,000–1:100,000, and screening may be seen as not cost-effective and logistically demanding. Early detection and intervention by restricting galactose is not curative but is very rewarding, as it prevents deaths, mental retardation, liver cell failure, renal tubular acidosis and neurological sequelae, and may lead to resolution of cataract formation. Hence, national newborn screening for galactosemia prevents serious potential life-long suffering, morbidity and mortality. Recent advances in communication and biotechnology promise facilitation of logistics of neonatal screening, including improved cost-effectiveness.

Keywords: galactosemia neonatal screening, galactose-1-phosphate uridylyltransferase, galactokinase, UDP galactose-4-epimerase, galactosylation

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