Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 162–172 | Cite as

Diagnosis and management of trimethylaminuria (FMO3 deficiency) in children

  • R. A. ChalmersEmail author
  • M. D. Bain
  • H. Michelakakis
  • J. Zschocke
  • R. A. Iles
Original Article


Persistent trimethylaminuria in children is caused by autosomal recessively inherited impairment of hepatic trimethylamine (TMA) oxidation due to deficiency of flavin monooxygenase 3 (FMO3) secondary to mutations in the FMO3 gene. Trimethylaminuria or ‘fish odour syndrome’ is due to excessive excretion into body fluids and breath of TMA derived from the enterobacterial metabolism of dietary precursors. The disorder is present from birth but becomes apparent as foods containing high amounts of choline or of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) from marine (sea or saltwater) fish are introduced into the diet. In our experience, trimethylaminuria (FMO3 deficiency) in children is rare. We have compared the dynamics and diagnostic efficacy of choline loading with marine fish meals in six children with trimethylaminuria. Loading with a marine fish meal provides a simple and acceptable method for confirmation of diagnosis of suspected trimethylaminuria in children, with the effects being cleared more quickly than with a choline load test. However, oral loading with choline bitartrate allows estimation of residual oxidative capacity in vivo and is a useful adjunct to molecular studies. Patients homozygous for the ‘common’ P153L mutation in the FMO3 gene showed virtual complete lack of residual TMA N-oxidative capacity, consistent with a nonfunctional or absent FMO3 enzyme, whereas a patient with the M82T mutation showed some residual oxidative capacity. A patient compound heterozygous for two novel mutations, G193E and R483T, showed considerable residual N-oxidative capacity. A further patient, heterozygous for two novel sequence variations in the FMO3 gene, consistently showed malodour and elevated urinary TMA/TMAO ratios under basal conditions but a negative response to both choline and marine fish meal loading. Comparison of the effects of administration of antibiotics (metronidazole, amoxicillin, neomycin) on gut bacterial production of trimethylamine from choline showed they all reduced TMA production to a limited extent, with neomycin being most effective. ‘Best-practice’ diagnostic and treatment guidelines are summarized.


Choline Trimethylamine TMAO M82T Mutation P153L Mutation 
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Copyright information

© SSIEM and Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. A. Chalmers
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • M. D. Bain
    • 1
  • H. Michelakakis
    • 2
  • J. Zschocke
    • 3
  • R. A. Iles
    • 4
  1. 1.Paediatric Metabolism UnitSt George’s Hospital Medical SchoolLondonUK
  2. 2.Institute of Child HealthAghia Sophia Children’s HospitalAthensGreece
  3. 3.Institute of Human GeneticsUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  4. 4.Department of Diabetes and Metabolic MedicineBarts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary CollegeLondonUK
  5. 5.CIMOALondon BioScience Innovation CentreLondonUK

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