Zellweger Syndrome

What is Zellweger Syndrome?

Zellweger syndrome is a rare, congenital (present at birth) disorder characterised by the reduction or absence of peroxisomes (cell structures that rid the body of toxic substances) in the cells of the liver, kidneys, and brain. Zellweger syndrome is one of a group of genetic disorders called peroxisomal diseases that affect brain development and the growth of the myelin sheath, the fatty covering-which acts as an insulator-on nerve fibers in the brain. The most common features of Zellweger syndrome include an enlarged liver, high levels of iron and copper in the blood, and vision disturbances. Some affected infants may show prenatal growth failure. Symptoms at birth may include lack of muscle tone and an inability to move. Other symptoms may include unusual facial characteristics, mental retardation, seizures, and an inability to suck and/or swallow. Jaundice and gastrointestinal bleeding may also occur.

Is there any treatment?

There is no cure for Zellweger syndrome, nor is there a standard course of treatment. Infections should be guarded against to prevent such complications as pneumonia and respiratory distress. Other treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for individuals with Zellweger syndrome is poor. Death usually occurs within 6 months after onset, and may be caused by respiratory distress, gastrointestinal bleeding, or liver failure.
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