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Med Sci (Paris). 2005 Nov;21(11):934-9.

[Predictive testing: presymptomatic diagnosis in neurogenetic disorders].

[Article in French]

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Consultation de génétique, Département de génétique, cytogénétique et embryologie, Groupe hospitalier Pitié Salpêtrière, 47-83, boulevard de l'Hôpital, 75651 Paris Cedex 13, France.


Presymptomatic testing is available since 15 years for Huntington disease and it is now possible for a number of other neurogenetic disorders, mostly neurodegenerative disorders. The possibility of determining the genetic status of an at-risk person for the disorder which run in his family raises questions because of the absence of preventive and curative treatments in most instances. In addition, being carrier does not tell you when the disease will start and how it will evolve, impairing the possibilities of planning the future. A pluridisciplinary approach to predictive testing with care before, during and after the test taking into account the medical, social and psychological aspects of the disease is good practice. At the present time, only a minority of at-risk individuals request presymptomatic testing and almost 50 % do not pursue until the results. The consequences of the test may be harmful, more frequently after an unfavorable than after a favorable result. Although the motivations and the outcome in terms of request for prenatal testing after a carrier result are different in Huntington's disease and spinocerebellar ataxias, our experience underlines the benefit of pluridisciplinary care and of time for decision taking. For other disorders like familial Alzheimer's disease, or familial Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the experience in presymptomatic testing is still limited but the situation seems similar to Huntington's disease because of the presence of dementia. It will be interesting to study the motivations and the outcome of the tests in disorders like autosomal dominant spastic paraplegias which usually do not reduce the life expectancy. Nevertheless, the overall situation might change greatly when efficient treatments will become available in these disorders.

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