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Ann Hum Genet. 2005 May;69(Pt 3):268-74.

Wilson disease: high prevalence in a mountainous area of Crete.

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Department of Science Dietetics-Nutrition, Harokopio University of Athens, Kallithea, Greece.


Wilson disease (WD) is an autosomal recessive disorder of copper metabolism. The disorder is caused by mutations in the ATP7B gene, encoding a copper transporting P-type ATPase. The worldwide incidence is in the order of 30 cases per million, with a gene frequency of 0.56% and a carrier frequency of 1 in 90. The increased number of Wilson disease patients in the island of Crete led us to study the spectrum of mutations in a small village close to the city of Heraklion, from where many patients have been referred during the last 25 years. In order to estimate the frequency of the disease, we firstly investigated the number of births and the number of WD patients in the village since 1978. Six out of 90 births were diagnosed as WD patients, presenting the highest prevalence of WD reported so far. Analysis of the whole gene in three Wilson disease patients, and relatives of a boy who died from WD, led to the detection of 4 different point mutations. Two of them were missense (p.I1148T and p.G1176R) and cosegregated in cis in the same patient; the other allele of this patient carried a nonsense mutation (p.Q289X). This is the first report in the literature of three mutations co-segregating in the same WD patient. The fourth mutation identified was a novel frameshift mutation (c.398delT) with documented cosegregation. When screening 200 inhabitants originating from the same area, 18 were found to be carriers of one of these mutations. These findings indicate the need for health education intervention, genetic counselling and newborn screening for the Wilson disease.

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