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NINDS Barth Syndrome Information Page


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What is Barth Syndrome?

Barth syndrome (BTHS) is a rare, genetic disorder of lipid metabolism that primarily affects males. It is caused by a mutation in the tafazzin gene (TAZ, also called G4.5) which leads to decreased production of an enzyme required to produce cardiolipin. Cardiolipin is an essential lipid that is important in energy metabolism. BTHS, which affects multiple body systems, is considered serious. Its main characteristics often include combinations in varying degrees of cardiomyopathy (a disorder of the heart muscle leading to a poorly functioning heart), neutropenia (a reduction in the number of white blood cells which may lead to an increased risk for bacterial infections), hypotonia (reduced muscle tone), muscle weakness, undeveloped skeletal muscles, delayed growth, lack of stamina, varying degrees of physical disability, and methylglutaconic aciduria (an increase in an organic acid that results in abnormal mitochondria function). Although some with BTHS may have all of these characteristics, others may have only one or two, and, thus, are often misdiagnosed. BTHS is an X-linked genetic condition passed from mother to son through the X chromosome. A mother who is a carrier of BTHS shows no signs or symptoms of the disorder herself. On average, 50 percent of children born to a carrier mother will inherit the defective gene, but only boys will develop symptoms. All daughters born to an affected male will be carriers.

Is there any treatment?

There is no specific treatment for Barth syndrome. Bacterial infections caused by neutropenia can be effectively treated with antibiotics. The drug granulocyte colony stimulating factor, or GCSF, can stimulate white cell production by the bone marrow and help combat infection. Medicines may be prescribed to control heart problems. The dietary supplement carnitine has aided some children with Barth syndrome but in others it has caused increasing muscle weakness and even precipitated heart failure. Only careful dietary monitoring directed by a physician or nutritionist familiar with the disorder can ensure proper caloric and nutritional intake.

What is the prognosis?

Early and accurate diagnosis is key to prolonged survival for boys born with Barth syndrome. Severe infections and cardiac failure are common causes of death in affected children.

What research is being done?

The NINDS supports research on genetic disorders such as Barth syndrome, including basic research on mitochondrial dysfunction and investigations of other inborn errors of metabolism. The 1996 discovery of the Barth gene is helping scientists and physicians better understand the metabolic and biochemical abnormalities seen in the disease and learn how genes cause heart disease, muscle weakness, and other problems in the body. The ultimate goal of this research is to find ways to prevent, treat, and cure these disorders.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Barth Syndrome Clinical Trials

Organizations

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Barth Syndrome Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 618
Larchmont, NY   10538
bsfinfo@barthsyndrome.org
http://www.barthsyndrome.org
Tel: 850-273-6947
Fax: 518-213-4061

 


Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated January 25, 2010