Organic acidemia, also called organic aciduria, is a term used to classify a group of metabolic disorders which disrupt normal amino acid metabolism, particularly branched-chain amino acids, causing a buildup of acids which are usually not present. The four main types of organic acidemia are: methylmalonic acidemia, propionic acidemia, isovaleric acidemia, and maple syrup urine disease.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
Organic acidemias are usually always diagnosed in infancy, characterized by urinary excretion of abnormal amounts or types of organic acids. The diagnosis is usually made by detecting an abnormal pattern of organic acids in a urine sample by gas chromatography - mass spectrometry. In some conditions, the urine is always abnormal, in others the characteristic substances are only present intermittently. Many of the organic acidemias are detectable by newborn screening with tandem mass spectrometry.
These disorders vary in their prognosis, from manageable to fatal, and usually affect more than one organ system, especially the central nervous system.
Neurological damage and developmental delay are common factors in diagnosis, with associated symptoms ranging from poor feeding to slow growth, lethargy, vomiting, dehydration, malnutrition, hypoglycemia, hypotonia, metabolic acidosis, ketoacidosis, hyperammonemia, and if left untreated, death.
Glutaric acidemia type I is an inherited disorder in which the body is unable to process certain proteins properly. People with this disorder have inadequate levels of an enzyme that helps break down the amino acids lysine, hydroxylysine, and tryptophan, which are building blocks of protein. Excessive levels of these amino acids and their intermediate breakdown products can accumulate and cause damage to the brain, particularly the basal ganglia, which are regions that help control movement. Mental retardation may also occur. The severity of glutaric acidemia type I varies widely; some individuals are only mildly affected, while others have severe problems. In most cases, signs and symptoms first occur in infancy or early childhood, but in a small number of affected individuals, the disorder first becomes apparent in adolescence or adulthood.
Glutaric acidemia type I occurs in approximately 1 of every 30,000 to 40,000 individuals. It is much more common in the Amish community and in the Ojibwa population of Canada, where up to 1 in 300 newborns may be affected.