AIMS: To assess the incidence of tyrosinaemia type I in the West Midlands Region, and the value of current neonatal screening programmes for phenylketonuria (PKU) for its detection. METHODS: Retrospective study of results from the PKU neonatal screening programmes in Birmingham (using plasma amino acid chromatography) and in the rest of the West Midlands (using the Guthrie microbiological assay for blood spot phenylalanine) was carried out between January 1985 and March 1994. Patients with tyrosinaemia I born in the region during the same period were identified from a regional database of patients with confirmed inherited metabolic disease. The study was carried out in a specialist children's hospital; the regional centre in the West Midlands for neonatal screening and investigation of inborn errors, and a supraregional centre for liver transplantation and management of paediatric liver disease. RESULTS: Amino acid chromatography showed increased tyrosine in 447 of 145,444 neonates born in Birmingham; this was still increased at 6 weeks of age in six cases. Five had tyrosinaemia I; the sixth had tyrosinaemia type III. Two others in whom amino acid chromatography was considered normal have since presented with tyrosinaemia I. Outside Birmingham, 525,151 children were screened using the Guthrie test. Five have presented clinically with tyrosinaemia I; screening did not contribute to diagnosis in any case. The incidence of tyrosinaemia I was 1 in 20,791 live births within Birmingham and 1 in 105,037 outside. Of the total 12 patients in the West Midlands with tyrosinaemia I, 10 (83%) were of non-oriental Asian ethnicity; the incidence of tyrosinaemia I was 3.7/10(6) head of population in this group and 0.04/10(6) in the rest of the population. CONCLUSIONS: Asians in the West Midlands have a high incidence of tyrosinaemia I. Neonatal PKU screening using amino acid chromatography may contribute to diagnosis and early treatment.
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