The decision to discontinue screening for carnitine uptake disorder in New Zealand
When screening for carnitine uptake disorder (CUD), the New Zealand (NZ) newborn screening (NBS) service identified infants as screen-positive if they had initial and repeat free carnitine (C0) levels of less than 5.0 μmol/L. Since 2006, the NBS service has identified two infants with biochemical and genetic features consistent with neonatal CUD and nine mothers with features consistent with maternal CUD. A review of the literature suggests that these nine women reflect less than half the true prevalence and that CUD is relatively common. However, the NZ results (two infants) suggest a very low sensitivity and positive predictive value of NBS. While patients presenting with significant disease due to CUD are well described, the majority of adults with CUD are asymptomatic. Nonetheless, treatment with high-dose oral L-carnitine is recommended. Compliance with oral L-carnitine is likely to be poor long term. This may represent a specific risk as treatment could repress the usual compensatory mechanisms seen in CUD, such that a sudden discontinuation of treatment may be dangerous. L-carnitine is metabolized to trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) and treated patients have extremely high plasma TMAO levels. TMAO is an independent risk factor for atherosclerosis and, thus, caution should be exercised regarding long-term treatment with high-dose carnitine of asymptomatic patients who may have a biochemical profile without disease. Due to these concerns, the NZ Newborn Metabolic Screening Programme (NMSP) initiated a review via a series of advisory and governance committees and decided to discontinue screening for CUD.
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.
Conflict of interest
Dr. Callum Wilson, Mr. Detlef Knoll, Mr. Mark de Hora, Dr. Campbell Kyle, Dr. Emma Glamuzina, and Dr. Dianne Webster declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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