Date: 20 Nov 2011

Riboflavin-Responsive Trimethylaminuria in a Patient with Homocystinuria on Betaine Therapy

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Abstract

A 17-year-old female patient with pyridoxine non-responsive homocystinuria, treated with 20 g of betaine per day, developed a strong body odour, which was described as fish-like. Urinary trimethylamine (TMA) was measured and found to be markedly increased. DNA mutation analysis revealed homozygosity for a common allelic variant in the gene coding for the TMA oxidising enzyme FMO3. Without changing diet or betaine therapy, riboflavin was given at a dose of 200 mg per day. An immediate improvement in her odour was noticed by her friends and family and urinary TMA was noted to be greatly reduced, although still above the normal range.

Gradual further reductions in TMA (and odour) have followed whilst receiving riboflavin. Throughout this period, betaine compliance has been demonstrated by the measurement of dimethylglycine (DMG) excretion, which has been consistently increased. Marked excretions of DMG when the odour had subsided also demonstrate that DMG was not the source of the odour.

This patient study raises the possibility that betaine may be converted to TMA by intestinal flora to some degree, resulting in a significant fish odour when oxidation of TMA is compromised by FMO3 variants. The possibility exists that the body odour occasionally associated with betaine therapy for homocystinuria may not be related to increased circulating betaine or DMG, but due to a common FMO3 mutation resulting in TMAU. Benefits of riboflavin therapy for TMAU for such patients would allow the maintenance of betaine therapy without problematic body odour.

Communicated by: Ertan Mayatepek
Competing interests: None declared.