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May 1983

Newborn Phenylalanine/Tyrosine Metabolism: Implications for Screening for Phenylketonuria

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse, NY.

Am J Dis Child. 1983;137(5):427-432. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1983.02140310009002

• Controversy over the sensitivity of newborn screening for phenylketonuria (PKU) has recently led to the specific recommendation that infants discharged within the first 24 hours of life be routinely retested at 1 to 2 weeks of age. To address this controversy, data from cord blood samples, phenylalanine (Phe) tolerance tests at 3 days of age, and sequential plasma Phe determinations in six siblings of known cases of PKU or hyperphenylalaninemia were analyzed, along with data from the literature. These analyses showed that normal and probably heterozygous infants decrease their Phe concentrations with age, while infants with PKU or PKU variants increase their Phe concentrations with age but at varying rates. Predictive equations showed that the sensitivity of the screening test rapidly increases with age, so that the usual critical value of 4 mg/dL is satisfactory for suspecting PKU after 18 hours of age. A critical value of 3 mg/dL would be equally satisfactory at any age, if the Guthrie test were appropriately modified to include a 3-mg/dL standard.

(Am J Dis Child 1983;137:427-432)