Fabry disease, or alpha-galactosidase A (alpha-Gal A) deficiency, is a lysosomal storage disorder in which accumulation of globotriaosylceramide (Gb(3)) is thought to be responsible for the development of renal, cardiac and cerebral complications. The availability of enzyme replacement therapy has led to an increased awareness and the screening of patients suffering from complications that may be associated with Fabry disease. An association between alpha-Gal A deficiency and atherosclerosis has been suggested, although there is controversy. We therefore studied the prevalence of Fabry disease in a Dutch cohort of prematurely atherosclerotic males. Measurement of alpha-Gal A activity was performed in plasma of 440 Dutch male patients with premature atherosclerosis. Patients were included if they were under the age of 50 years and had proven coronary and/or peripheral artery disease. Analysis revealed a mean alpha-Gal A activity of 7.75 +/- 3.48 nmol/h per ml (range 0.55-34.36). In 425 patients (96.5%) alpha-Gal A activity was within the reference range (3.2-14.3 nmol/h per ml, based on historical controls); 13 patients (3%) had values above and 2 patients (0.5%) below the reference range. Additional analysis of alpha-Gal A activity in leukocytes and fresh plasma in these two patients revealed normal values (53 and 47 nmol/h per mg (reference range: 32-60 nmol/h per mg) and 31.1 and 14.2 nmol/h per ml, respectively). Thus Fabry disease was not detected, leading to an overall prevalence of 0% (95 CI 0-0.68). In conclusion, screening for Fabry disease in prematurely atherosclerotic patients seems not to be very useful, although a slightly increased prevalence is not excluded.
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