Screening for Bile Acid Synthesis Disorders

A recent study (AA Al-Hussaini et al. JPGN 2017; 65: 613-20) showed that serum (total) bile acids is effective in screening for bile acid synthesis disorders. In this prospective study from Saudi Arabia, with 626 patients and 450 with infantile cholestasis, the authors identified bile acid synthetic disorder (BASD) in 2.7% of infantile cholestasis patients.  Among the 15 cases, 11 were due to 3β-hydroxyl-Δ5-C27 steroid oxidoreductase dehydrogenase deficiency (HSD3B7).  In these conditions, serum bile acids are low or normal (< 10  μmol/L) in the setting of cholestasis; most cholestatic conditions have elevated bile acids. In addition, all of their patients with bile acid synthetic disorders had a normal or low GGT.

Cholic acid is the “only effective therapy” for bile acid synthetic disorders.  It has a high cost of “$31,000 yer year in Europe” (50 mg per day).

My take: While the authors provide a diagnostic algorithm (figure 3) for diagnosis of bile acid synthetic disorders, this will likely change with the emergence of genetic screening panel.  At this time, in infants/children with cholestasis along with a normal/low GGT and normal/low serum bile acids, one should check urine for fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry.

Related blog post:

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon


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