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Gilbert's syndrome
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 E80.4
ICD-9 277.4
OMIM 143500
DiseasesDB 5218
eMedicine med/870
MeSH D005878

Gilbert's syndrome, pronounced /ʒilˈbeɹ/ (jheel-BAYR), often shortened to GS, also called Gilbert-Meulengracht syndrome, is the most common hereditary cause of increased bilirubin and is found in up to 5% of the population (though some gastroenterologists maintain that it is closer to 10%). It has an autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance. The main symptom is otherwise harmless jaundice, which does not require treatment, caused by elevated levels of unconjugated bilirubin in the bloodstream (hyperbilirubinemia).

The cause of this hyperbilirubinemia is the reduced activity of the enzyme glucuronyltransferase, which conjugates bilirubin and some other lipophilic molecules. Conjugation renders the bilirubin water-soluble, after which it is excreted in bile into the duodenum.

Contents

Physiology

Gilbert's syndrome is caused by an approximately 70%-75% reduction in the glucuronidation activity of the enzyme Uridine-diphosphate-glucuronosyltransferase isoform 1A1 (UGT1A1).[1][2] The gene that encodes UGT1A1 normally has a promoter region TATA box containing the allele A(TA6)TAA. Gilbert's syndrome is most commonly associated with homozygous A(TA7)TAA alleles.[3] The allele polymorphism is referred to as UGT1A1*28. In 94% of GS sufferers, mutations in two of the other glucoronyltransferase variations UGT1A6 (rendered 50% inactive) and UGT1A7 (rendered 83% ineffective) are also present. Because of its effects on drug and bilirubin breakdown and because of its genetic inheritance, Gilbert's syndrome can be classed as a minor inborn error of metabolism.

Signs, symptoms and consequences

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Jaundice

Gilbert's syndrome produces an elevated level of unconjugated bilirubin in the bloodstream but normally has no serious consequences. Mild jaundice may appear under conditions of exertion, stress, fasting, and infections, but the condition is otherwise usually asymptomatic. [4][5]

It has been reported that GS may contribute to an accelerated onset of neonatal jaundice, especially in the presence of increased hemolysis due to diseases like G6PD deficiency.[6][7]

Detoxification of certain drugs

The enzymes that are defective in GS (UGT1A1) are also responsible for some of the liver's ability to detoxify certain drugs. For example, Gilbert's syndrome is associated with severe diarrhea and neutropenia in patients who are treated with irinotecan, which is metabolized by UGT1A1.[8]

While paracetamol (acetaminophen or brand names Panadol, Tylenol) is not metabolized by UGT1A1,[9] it is metabolized by one of the other enzymes also deficient in some people with GS.[10][11] A subset of people with GS may have an increased risk of paracetamol toxicity.[11][12]

Possible benefits and cardiovascular disease

In the first study on coronary heart disease risk in individuals with GS, a three year span was considered and a significant decrease in incidence of coronary artery disease was found in the subjects [13]. Specifically, people with mildly elevated levels of bilirubin (1.1 mg/dl to 2.7 mg/dl) were at lower risk for CAD and at lower risk for future heart disease.

One research group in the Czech Republic has found a reduced incidence of atherosclerotic disease (hardening of the arteries) in subjects with GS and an inverse relationship between serum bilirubin and cardiovascular disease[14]. They performed a meta-analysis of all studies published up to 2002 on the relationship between bilirubin levels and atherosclerosis. Only males with isolated hyperbilirubinemia (as occurs in GS subjects) were considered. The authors found a close negative relationship between bilirubin levels and the degree of atherosclerosis in the subjects. This beneficial effect is supposedly due to bilirubin IXα's being recognised as a potent antioxidant [13].

A study by Lin et al.[15] associated moderately elevated levels of bilirubin in people with GS and the (TA)7/(TA)7 genotype with 1/3 the risk for both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease as compared to those with the (TA)6/(TA)6 genotype (ie a normal, non-mutated gene locus).

A paper by Schwertner and Vitek [16] summarizes many of the pre-2008 findings between cardiovascular disease and elevated serum bilirubin concentrations. The authors go on to discuss intentional, artificial raising of bilirubin levels as a means of prevention of cardiovascular disease and other oxidative and inflammatory diseases.

Debated signs and diffuse symptoms

Diffuse symptoms, whether connected or not to GS, have been reported in a subset of those affected: Feeling tired all the time (fatigue), difficulty maintaining concentration, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, loss of weight and others - [17], but no clear adverse symptoms related to elevated levels of unconjugated bilirubin have been found in adults during scientific studies [18][19] (see below). This has led some to dispute whether GS should be classified as a disease.[18][20]

Diagnosis

Exclusion of other conditions

While this syndrome is considered harmless, it is clinically important because it may be confused with much more dangerous liver conditions. However, these will show other indicators of liver dysfunction:

  • Hemolysis can be excluded by a full blood count, haptoglobin, lactate dehydrogenase levels and the absence of reticulocytosis (elevated reticulocytes in the blood would usually be observed in haemolytic anaemia).
  • Viral hepatitis can be excluded by negative blood samples for antigens specific to the different hepatitis vira.
  • Cholestasis can be excluded by the absence of lactate dehydrogenase, low levels of conjugated bilirubin and ultrasound scan of the bile ducts.
  • More severe types of glucoronyl transferase disorders like Crigler-Najjar syndrome (types I and II). These are much more severe, with 0-10% UGT1A1 activity, with sufferers at risk of brain damage in infancy (type I) and teenage years (type II).
  • Other diseases of the liver can be excluded by the liver-enzymes ALAT, ASAT and albumin being within normal ranges.

Findings specific to Gilbert's syndrome

Patients with GS show predominantly elevated unconjugated bilirubin, while conjugated is usually within normal ranges and form less than 20% of the total. Levels of bilirubin in GS patients is reported to be from 20 μmol/dl to 90 μmol/dl (1.2 to 5.3 mg/dL)[2] compared to the normal amount of < 20 μmol/dL. GS patients will have a ratio of unconjugated/conjugated (indirect/direct) bilirubin that is commensurately higher than those without GS.

The level of total bilirubin is often increased if the blood sample is taken after fasting for two days[21], and a fast can therefore be useful diagnostically. If the total bilirubin does in fact increase while fasting, the patient can then be given low doses of phenobarbital[22] when fasting has ended, and following samples should show a decrease in total bilirubin toward normal levels.

Studies of possible symptoms

Historically there has been debate over whether Gilbert's Syndrome has an associated, verifiable set of symptoms aside from jaundice. Clinical studies before the mid 1970s indicated a high prevalence of symptoms in people with GS. Doctors and clinicians at the time attributed such symptoms partly to anxiety, since patients with GS were often misdiagnosed with serious liver disease. Later studies, such as by Bailey et al.[19] in 1977, proposed that selection bias was creating the false impression that GS had a definitive, frequent set of symptoms. The reasoning went: doctors were only seeing the subset of GS patients who presented with symptoms (since these, primarily, would be the only patients in the total group of GS patients who would come to the attention of the medical community)--then, for example, any study which selected from prior patients would tend to favor only the symptomatic subset of the set of people with GS. A 1988 study by Olsson et al.[18] is the only major study of symptoms in people with GS. Its methods included steps to reduce the likelihood of selection bias. It showed no tendency to higher prevalence of symptoms.[18] The table below outlines studies related to symptoms in GS.

Medical studies related to symptoms of Gilbert's Syndrome
Study GS Diagnostic Criteria [A] [B] Selected From [C] GS Subjects Symptoms [D] Comments
Foulk et al. 1959 [23] 1.5 mg/dl prior patients 58 total (51 male), average age of 35 65% complained of fatigue; many complained of gastric disturbances many patients had (mistakenly) received a diagnosis of chronic hepatic disease; authors theorized anxiety contributed to symptoms
Powell et al. 1967 [24] 1.1 mg/dl (w/ jaundice or other symptoms) prior patients 42 total (34 male) 69% complained of abdominal pain/discomfort, fatigue or malaise (but relatives with GS were asymptomatic) 78% had been misdiagnosed with hepatitis or gallstones; 24 out of 119 (20%) of the subjects' 1st degree relatives were found to have GS also, all of whom were asymptomatic
Bailey et al. 1977 [19] 1.5 mg/dl general population, 23,925 subjects total 6 (all male) no symptoms the primary purpose of this study was testing bimodality of serum-bilirubin the 18,454 men; of the 369 men above the cutoff, 12 were invited back—6 returned and were all asymptomatic; the authors suggested selection bias for high frequency of symptoms in other studies
N. Gitlin 1977 [25] not specified (fasting test) prior patients 26 (19 male), between 14 and 30 years old complaints of recurrent: malaise (66%), asthenia (65%) and abdominal distension (52%) (8% were asymptomatic) the author emphasized the benign nature [E] of the disease (in that it differs from serious liver disease and people would have a normal life expectancy)
Olsson et al. 1988 [18] 1.26 mg/dl general population, 2,395 subjects total 48 (24 male), age groups for males: 18-20, 57, 67 while for females: 26,38,50,58,62 [F] No tendency to higher prevalence of symptoms the largest study undertaken to look for symptoms of GS in the general population; authors concluded the difference in prevalence of symptoms between those above and below the cutoff was not statistically significant [G]; authors suggested selection bias as the cause of GS symptom prevalence
Cleary and White 1993 [26] not specified [H] CFS patients 45 (all male), average age: 40 seven (16%) of the men were considered to have GS the authors remark on the high percentage of CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) patients with GS relative to the percentage of GS in the general population
Valesini et al. 1993 [27] not specified patients with fatigue for > 6 months 57 (16 male) six (11%) of the group were considered to have GS; in a subgroup of 24 with "probable CFS", 4 (16%) were considered to have GS the authors remark on the high percentage of fatigued patients with GS relative to the percentage of GS in the general population
A in all studies, care was taken to exclude subjects with overt signs of liver disease--ie the hyperbilirubinemia was considered isolated
B these studies used serum bilirubin cutoffs or other non-genetic criteria to make a diagnosis of GS; it was not until the mid 1990's, with the work of eg Bosma et al. [ref to Bosma], that GS was associated with genetic mutations
C selecting from prior patients has been argued to carry a selection bias into the frequency of finding symptoms in GS patients
D in addition to the possible symptom of intermittent jaundice
E a medically benign condition is generally one considered non life-threatening--it may still present with symptoms
F each age or age range listed corresponds to a subset of the total sample group (of 2,395), the subset further broken down into subjects above 21 umol/l (considered to have GS) and below 21 umol/l (the control group)
G to statistical significance in women, fatigue was more likely in the control group (those w/o GS)
H 6 of 7 had bilirubin levels > 1.5 mg/dl

Eponym and synonyms

Gilbert's syndrome was first described by French gastroenterologist Augustin Nicolas Gilbert and co-workers in 1901.[28][29] In German literature, it is commonly associated with Jens Einar Meulengracht.[30]

Alternative, less common names for this disorder include:

  • Familial benign unconjugated hyperbilirubinaemia
  • Constitutional liver dysfunction
  • Familial non-hemolytic non-obstructive jaundice
  • Icterus intermittens juvenilis
  • Low-grade chronic hyperbilirubinemia
  • Unconjugated benign bilirubinemia

Notable People

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b Bosma PJ, Chowdhury JR, Bakker C, Gantla S, de Boer A, Oostra BA, Lindhout D, Tytgat GN, Jansen PL, Oude Elferink RP, et al. (1995). "The genetic basis of the reduced expression of bilirubin UDP-glucuronosyltransferase 1 in Gilbert's syndrome". New England Journal of Medicine 333 (18): 1171–5. doi:10.1056/NEJM199511023331802. PMID 7565971. 
  3. ^ Monaghan G, Ryan M, Seddon R, Hume R, Burchell B (1996). "Genetic variation in bilirubin UPD-glucuronosyltransferase gene promoter and Gilbert's syndrome". Lancet 347 (9001): 578–81. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(96)91273-8. PMID 8596320. 
  4. ^ Kasper et al., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 16th edition, McGraw-Hill 2005
  5. ^ Boon et al., Davidson's Principles & Practice of Medicine, 20th edition, Churchill Livingstone 2006
  6. ^ Bancroft JD, Kreamer B, Gourley GR (1998). "Gilbert syndrome accelerates development of neonatal jaundice". Journal of Pediatrics 132 (4): 656–60. doi:10.1016/S0022-3476(98)70356-7. PMID 9580766. 
  7. ^ Cappellini MD, Di Montemuros FM, Sampietro M, Tavazzi D, Fiorelli G (1999). "The interaction between Gilbert's syndrome and G6PD deficiency influences bilirubin levels". British journal of haematology 104 (4): 928–9. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2141.1999.1331a.x. PMID 10192462. 
  8. ^ Marcuello E, Altés A, Menoyo A, Del Rio E, Gómez-Pardo M, Baiget M (2004). "UGT1A1 gene variations and irinotecan treatment in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer". Br J Cancer 91 (4): 678–82. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6602042. PMID 15280927. 
  9. ^ Rauchschwalbe S, Zuhlsdorf M, Wensing G, Kuhlmann J (2004). "Glucuronidation of acetaminophen is independent of UGT1A1 promotor genotype". Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 42 (2): 73–7. PMID 15180166. 
  10. ^ Kohle C, Mohrle B, Munzel PA, Schwab M, Wernet D, Badary OA, Bock KW (2003). "Frequent co-occurrence of the TATA box mutation associated with Gilbert's syndrome (UGT1A1*28) with other polymorphisms of the UDP-glucuronosyltransferase-1 locus (UGT1A6*2 and UGT1A7*3) in Caucasians and Egyptians". Biochem Pharmacol 65 (9): 1521–7. doi:10.1016/S0006-2952(03)00074-1. PMID 12732365. 
  11. ^ a b Esteban A, Pérez-Mateo M (1999). "Heterogeneity of paracetamol metabolism in Gilbert's syndrome". European journal of drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics 24 (1): 9–13. PMID 10412886. 
  12. ^ Mukherjee S. Gilbert Syndrome. eMedicine.com. URL: http://www.emedicine.com/med/topic870.htm. Accessed: October 7, 2007 .
  13. ^ a b Vítek L, Jirsa M, Brodanová M, et al. (2002). "Gilbert syndrome and ischemic heart disease: a protective effect of elevated bilirubin levels". Atherosclerosis 160 (2): 449–56. doi:10.1016/S0021-9150(01)00601-3. PMID 11849670. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0021915001006013. 
  14. ^ Ladislav Novotnýc and Libor Vítek (2003). "Inverse Relationship Between Serum Bilirubin and Atherosclerosis in Men: A Meta-Analysis of Published Studies". Experimental Biology and Medicine (228): 568–571. PMID 12709588. 
  15. ^ Lin JP, O’Donnell CJ, Schwaiger JP, et al. (2006). "Association between the UGT1A1*28 allele, bilirubin levels, and coronary heart disease in the Framingham Heart Study.". Circulation 114: 1476–81. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.106.633206. PMID 17000907. 
  16. ^ Schwertner Harvey A; Vítek Libor (2008). "Gilbert syndrome, UGT1A1*28 allele, and cardiovascular disease risk: possible protective effects and therapeutic applications of bilirubin.". Atherosclerosis 198(1): 1–11. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2008.01.001. PMID 18343383. 
  17. ^ GilbertsSyndrome.com
  18. ^ a b c d e Olsson R, Bliding A, Jagenburg R, Lapidus L, Larsson B, Svärdsudd K, Wittboldt S. (1988). "Gilbert's syndrome--does it exist? A study of the prevalence of symptoms in Gilbert's syndrome". Acta Med Scandinavia 224 (5): 485–490. PMID 3264448. 
  19. ^ a b c Bailey A, Robinson D, Dawson AM. (1977). "Does Gilbert's disease exist?". Lancet 1(8018): 931–3. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(77)92226-7. PMID 67389. 
  20. ^ Larissa K. F. Temple, Robin S. McLeod, Steven Gallinger, James G. Wright (2001). "Defining Disease in the Genomics Era". Science Magazine 293 (5531): 807–808. doi:10.1126/science.1062938. PMID 11486074. 
  21. ^ J L Gollan, C Bateman, B H Billing (1976). "Effect of dietary composition on the unconjugated hyperbilirubinaemia of Gilbert's syndrome". Gut 17 (17): 335–340. doi:10.1136/gut.17.5.335. PMID 1278716. 
  22. ^ N Carulli, M Ponz de Leon, E Mauro, F Manenti, A Ferrari (1976). "Alteration of drug metabolism in Gilbert's syndrome". Gut 17 (17): 581–587. doi:10.1136/gut.17.8.581. PMID 976795. 
  23. ^ a b Foulk, WT; Butt, HR; Owen, CA, Jr; Whitcomb, FF, Jr; Mason, HL (1959). "Constitutional hepatic dysfunction (Gilbert's disease): its natural history and related syndromes.". Medicine (Baltimore) 38(1): 25–46. PMID 13632313. 
  24. ^ Powell LW, Hemingway E, Billing BH, Sherlock S (1967). "Idiopathic unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia (Gilbert's syndrome). A study of 42 families.". N Engl J Med 277 (21): 1108–12. PMID 6054997. 
  25. ^ Gitlin N. (1977). "The clinical presentation of Gilbert's disease in 26 patients". South Africa Medical Journal 52 (1): 19–20. PMID 888039. 
  26. ^ Cleary KJ, White PD (1993). "Gilbert's and chronic fatigue syndromes in men.". Lancet 341(8848): 842. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(93)90629-U. PMID 8096054. 
  27. ^ Valesini G, Conti F, Priori R, Balsano F. (1993). "Gilbert's syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome.". Lancet 341(8853): 1162–3. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(93)93191-3. PMID 8097856. 
  28. ^ Gilbert's syndrome at Who Named It?
  29. ^ Gilbert A, Lereboullet P. La cholemie simple familiale. Sem Med 1901;21:241-3.
  30. ^ doctor/2449 at Who Named It?
  31. ^ Shmaefsky, Brian (2006). "5". Biotechnology 101. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 175. ISBN 9780313335280. http://books.google.com/books?id=E4KhutqTYNAC&pg=PA175&lpg=PA175&dq=%22Arthur+Kornberg%22+gilbert&source=bl&ots=dvtaF9IrIw&sig=RsAmSvW4x4gx0qxp9ygl_7gB-_E&hl=en&ei=HByASp-IFtW2jAf5hOTwAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#v=onepage&q=%22Arthur%20Kornberg%22%20gilbert&f=false. 
  32. ^ "Wire preaches delights of three cliffs". South Wales Evening Post: pp. 3. 2007-04-27. 

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