Utah DOH identifies first baby with inherited disorder that primarily affects brain, muscles

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah health officials have identified the first baby with Guanidinoacetate methyltransferase deficiency (GAMT), an inherited disorder that primarily affects the brain and muscles.

The Utah Department of Health says the Utah’s Newborn Screening Program indentified the patient in December 2020 solely through newborn screening.

UDOH says GAMT deficiency is a condition that affects the body’s ability to produce creatine.

Without creatine, the body is unable to use and store energy resulting in severe neurological problems including intellectual disability, limited speech development, recurrent seizures, autistic-like behavior, and involuntary movements.

Because early diagnosis and treatment can lead to improved health and development in children, UDOH says GAMT deficiency was added to Utah’s newborn screening panel in 2015.

“I would like to offer this family both my sympathies for the difficulty of receiving this unexpected news and also my encouragement that their child’s future is bright,” says Heidi Wallis, a parent of two children with GAMT and President of the Association for Creatine Deficiencies. Wallis was instrumental in getting GAMT added to Utah’s newborn screening panel.  She adds, “Newborn screening for GAMT in Utah has forever altered the course of this child’s life for the better. GAMT is a debilitating disease. Most families are forced to watch their children decline and desperately search for answers. When treated from birth, children with GAMT live a typical, healthy life.”

UDOH says this newborn is the first identified with GAMT solely by newborn screening and without a family history. Officials add that this infant’s diagnosis will likely open the door to many more states and countries adding GAMT to their screening panels.

Collaboration between the Utah Department of Health, the University of Utah, and ARUP Laboratories ultimately made screening possible. Although rare, Dr. Nicola Longo, Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Medical Genetics at the University of Utah says, “GAMT deficiency is a treatable condition as long as therapy is started early in life. Therapy is relatively simple and inexpensive. The first case identified by newborn screening worldwide demonstrates that GAMT deficiency can be detected at birth preventing any damage.”  

Dr. Marzia Pasquali, Professor of Pathology and Section Chief of Biochemical Genetics at ARUP Laboratories at the University of Utah believes it’s only fitting that the first case is being reported in Utah.

“This state was the first in the United States to develop a screening method and the first to initiate screening for GAMT deficiency. We hope the identification of this case will lead to the inclusion of GAMT deficiency in newborn screening programs worldwide.”

Newborn blood screening in Utah consists of two screens: one at 24-48 hours after birth and a second at two weeks of age. Blood is obtained by a small heel poke and collected on a screening card. The card is sent to the Utah Department of Health’s Public Health Laboratory where it is tested for 42 disorders. For more information on the Utah Newborn Screening Program, click here.

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