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Enzyme. 1984;32(1):37-46.

Galactosemia: how does long-term treatment change the outcome?


In galactosemic subjects, treatment prevents liver and kidney failure, brain damage and cataracts, but total exclusion of galactose from the diet does not ensure the absence of all pathology. Early and well-treated children show satisfactory general health and growth, make reasonable though suboptimal intellectual progress, are prone to speech defects, and commonly experience visual perceptual difficulties and some social maladjustment. Two different metabolites are potentially toxic: galactitol is responsible for the cataracts while galactose-1-phosphate causes the rest of the pathology. As both metabolites are present in the fetus and in postnatal life, pathological changes may develop at any time in life, even when treatment is strict. Owing to UDP-galactose 4'-epimerase, man can generate galactose from glucose from early embryonic life on. Therefore, transferase-deficient individuals can form galactose-1-phosphate in the absence of exogenous galactose, a process for which UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase is essential. Biosynthesis of galactose from glucose in well-treated galactosemics constitutes a mechanism of self-intoxication, not only in utero but also in adult life. The prognosis for some treated galactosemics may depend on their own ability to limit this process. Galactosemic girls, whether well-treated or not, run a considerable risk of developing ovarian dysfunction. Hypergonadotropinism has been diagnosed from 2 years of age to the third decade. Prenatal ovarian failure is not excluded but the observed facts suggest that ovarian failure is acquired after ovarian differentiation and initiation of folliculogenesis, at an individual rate and possibly through continuous self-intoxication with galactose-1-phosphate. Up to now, mild hypergonadotropinism has been documented in only 2 galactosemic males, but the male cohort of galactosemics studied for gonadal dysfunction is yet small.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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