Information for Patients
Amino Acid Metabolism Disorders
Metabolism is the process your body uses to make energy from the food you eat. Food is made up of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Your digestive system breaks the food parts down into sugars and acids, your body's fuel. Your body can use this fuel right away, or it can store the energy in your body. If you have a metabolic disorder, something goes wrong with this process.
One group of these disorders is amino acid metabolism disorders. They include phenylketonuria (PKU) and maple syrup urine disease. Amino acids are "building blocks" that join together to form proteins. If you have one of these disorders, your body may have trouble breaking down certain amino acids. Or there may be a problem getting the amino acids into your cells. These problems cause a buildup of harmful substances in your body. That can lead to serious, sometimes life-threatening, health problems.
These disorders are usually inherited. A baby who is born with one may not have any symptoms right away. Because the disorders can be so serious, early diagnosis and treatment are critical. Newborn babies get screened for many of them, using blood tests.
Treatments may include special diets, medicines, and supplements. Some babies may also need additional treatments if there are complications.
Ornithine translocase deficiency Ornithine translocase deficiency is an inherited disorder that causes ammonia and other substances to build up (accumulate) in the blood. Ammonia, which is formed when proteins are broken down in the body, is toxic if the levels become too high. The nervous system is especially sensitive to the effects of excess ammonia.Ornithine translocase deficiency varies widely in its severity and age of onset. Affected infants show signs and symptoms of ornithine translocase deficiency within days after birth. In most affected individuals, however, signs and symptoms of ornithine translocase deficiency do not appear until later in life, with health problems first appearing anytime from childhood to adulthood. Later-onset forms of ornithine translocase deficiency are usually less severe than the infantile form.Infants with ornithine translocase deficiency may lack energy (be lethargic), refuse to eat, vomit frequently, or have poorly controlled breathing or body temperature. Seizures or unusual body movements are common in these individuals. Some people with this condition have intellectual disability or developmental delay, but others have normal intelligence. Severe cases may result in coma.Some people with later-onset ornithine translocase deficiency have episodes of vomiting, lethargy, problems with coordination (ataxia), vision problems, episodes of brain dysfunction (encephalopathy), developmental delay, learning disabilities, or stiffness caused by abnormal tensing of the muscles (spasticity). Affected individuals may have chronic liver problems and mild abnormal bleeding.Individuals with ornithine translocase deficiency often cannot tolerate high-protein foods, such as meat. Occasionally, high-protein meals or stress caused by illness or periods without food (fasting) may cause ammonia to accumulate more quickly in the blood. This rapid increase of ammonia likely leads to the signs and symptoms of ornithine translocase deficiency.While the signs and symptoms of ornithine translocase deficiency can vary greatly among affected individuals, proper treatment can prevent some complications from occurring and may improve quality of life.