A recent case series (Li H, A Diaz-Kuan, M Vos et al. Mol Genet Metab. 2018 Apr;123(4):428-432) highlights the importance of dietary history in infants with liver failure (abstract below). Congratulations to my colleague Miriam Vos one of the coauthors.
Commentary on this publication from Emory News (from Kipp Ellsworth’s twitter feed):
Babies with inherited intolerance of fructose face a risk of acute liver failure if they are fed certain widely available formulas containing fructose, pediatricians and geneticists are warning. Baby formula manufacturers should remove fructose or sucrose, or explicitly label their products to allow parents to avoid those sweeteners if necessary, the doctors say.
In a recent paper in Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, Emory geneticists Hong Li, MD, PhD and Michael Gambello, MD, PhD together with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta pediatric hepatologist Miriam Vos, MD and colleagues report four cases of hereditary fructose intolerance (HFI), all diagnosed in early infants. All had acute liver failure that resolved when the infants switched to formula without fructose.
HFI is estimated to occur in 1 out of 20,000 live births. It comes from mutations in the aldolase B gene, resulting in an inability to metabolize fructose. Early symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and failure of an infant to gain weight. If unrecognized, HFI can result in liver and kidney damage, seizures or death.
HFI-related problems do not appear if an infant is being breastfed exclusively. It is normally recognized when fructose-containing solid foods, such as fruit, are introduced into the diet several months after birth. However, some baby formulas – often soy-based – contain sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose (table sugar), which is made of fructose and glucose linked together. Sometimes, the label only says “sugar” instead of sucrose…
Since HFI is a treatable disease, Li urges pediatricians to consider HFI as a potential diagnosis if there is a feeding problem, elevated transaminase enzymes or jaundice (a sign of liver damage) and the infant has been fed formula containing fructose or sucrose.
Some information about a young patient’s condition can be obtained from urine carbohydrate tests, but the only way to confirm HFI is by genetic sequencing.
Hereditary fructose intolerance (HFI) is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by aldolase B (ALDOB) deficiency resulting in an inability to metabolize fructose. The toxic accumulation of intermediate fructose-1-phosphate causes multiple metabolic disturbances, including postprandial hypoglycemia, lactic acidosis, electrolyte disturbance, and liver/kidney dysfunction. The clinical presentation varies depending on the age of exposure and the load of fructose. Some common infant formulas contain fructose in various forms, such as sucrose, a disaccharide of fructose and glucose. Exposure to formula containing fructogenic compounds is an important, but often overlooked trigger for severe metabolic disturbances in HFI. Here we report four neonates with undiagnosed HFI, all caused by the common, homozygous mutation c.448G>C (p.A150P) in ALDOB, who developed life-threatening acute liver failure due to fructose-containing formulas. These cases underscore the importance of dietary history and consideration of HFI in cases of neonatal or infantile acute liver failure for prompt diagnosis and treatment of HFI.
Related blog post: Changing Approach to Neonatal Acute Liver Failure