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October 2003

Neuropsychiatric Disturbances in Presumed Late-Onset Cobalamin C Disease

Author Affiliations

From Service de Neurologie 1, Groupe Hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France (Drs Roze, Gervais, Demeret, Pierrot-Deseilligny, and Bolgert), Service de Neurologie Pédiatrique et Maladies Métaboliques (Dr Ogier de Baulny), Service de Biochimie Hormonologie (Dr Benoist), Hôpital Robert Debré, Paris; Service d'Hématologie Biologique, Hôpital Henri Mondor, Créteil, France (Dr Zittoun); and Service de Neurologie, Hôpital de Bicêtre, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre (Dr Said); Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris, Paris.

Arch Neurol. 2003;60(10):1457-1462. doi:10.1001/archneur.60.10.1457

Background  Combined methylmalonic aciduria and homocystinuria cobalamin C type (cobalamin C disease) is an inborn metabolic disorder consisting of an impaired intracellular synthesis of the 2 active forms of vitamin B12 (cobalamin), namely, adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin, that results in increased levels of methylmalonic acid and homocysteine in the blood and urine. Most patients present in the first year of life with systemic, hematological, and neurological abnormalities. Late-onset forms are rare and had not been comprehensively characterized. They could be easily misdiagnosed.

Objective  To describe clinical and biochemical features of the disease in 2 siblings affected with presumed late-onset cobalamin C disease.

Design  Case report and review of the literature.

Setting  Neurological intensive care unit of a university hospital.

Observation  We describe 2 patients with neurological deterioration due to presumed cobalamin C disease. A 16-year-old girl was initially seen with psychosis and severe progressive neuropathy requiring mechanical ventilatory support and her 24-year-old sister had a 2-year disease course of subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord. A metabolic workup displayed increased methylmalonic acid levels, severe hyperhomocysteinemia, and low plasma methionine levels. The diagnosis was then confirmed by demonstration of impaired synthesis of adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin in cultured skin fibroblasts and Epstein-Barr virus–infected lymphocytes. Under specific treatment the younger sister's condition dramatically improved.

Conclusions  Although complementation studies have not been conducted, it is most likely these patients had cobalamin C disease. This study emphasizes the possibility of late-onset disease with purely neurological manifestations. Left untreated, this treatable condition can lead to death or irreversible damage to the nervous system. Screening for intracellular vitamin B12 dysmetabolism should, therefore, be considered in the investigation of adults with unexplained neurological disease, particularly when they are initially seen with a clinical picture suggestive of vitamin B12 deficiency.