High genetic carrier frequency of Wilson’s disease in France: discrepancies with clinical prevalence

Abstract : BACKGROUND: Wilson's disease (WD) is a rare autosomal recessive metabolic disease caused by ATP7B gene mutations tat cause excessively high copper levels, particularly in the liver and brain. The WD phenotype varies in terms of its clinical presentation and intensity. Diagnosing this metabolic disorder is important as a lifelong treatment, based on the use of copper chelating agents or zinc salts, is more effective if it's started early. Worldwide prevalence of WD is variable, with an average of 1/30,000. In France, a recent study based on French health insurance data estimated the clinical prevalence of the disease to be around 3/200,000. METHODS: To estimate the genetic prevalence of WD in France, we analysed the ATP7B gene by Next Generation Sequencing from a large French cohort of indiscriminate subjects. RESULTS: We observed a high heterozygous carrier frequency of ATP7B in France. Among the 697 subjects studied, 18 variants classified as pathogenic or probably pathogenic were found at heterozygous level in 22 subjects (22 alleles/1394 alleles), yielding a prevalence of 0.032 or 1/31 subjects. CONCLUSIONS: This considerable and unexplained discrepancy between the heterozygous carrier frequency and the clinical prevalence of WD may be explained by the clinical variability, the incomplete penetrance and the existence of modifiers genes. It suggests that the molecular analysis of ATP7B should be interpreted with caution, always alongside copper assays (ceruloplasmin, relative exchangeable copper, 24 h-urinary copper excretion) with particular respect to exome sequencing.
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Corinne Collet, Jean-Louis Laplanche, Justine Page, Hélène Morel, France Woimant, et al.. High genetic carrier frequency of Wilson’s disease in France: discrepancies with clinical prevalence. BMC Medical Genetics, BioMed Central, 2018, 19 (1), pp.143. ⟨10.1186/s12881-018-0660-3⟩. ⟨inserm-02303808⟩

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