A defect in the GALC gene causes Krabbe disease. Persons with this gene defect do not make enough of a substance called galactocerebroside beta-galactosidase (galactosylceramidase).
The body needs this substance to make myelin, the material that surrounds and protects nerve fibers. Without it, myelin breaks down, brain cells die, and nerves in the brain and other body areas do not work properly.
There are two forms of Krabbe disease.
Early-onset Krabbe disease appears in the first months of life. Most children with this form of the disease die before they reach age 2.
Late-onset Krabbe disease begins in late childhood or early adolescence.
Krabbe disease is inherited, which means that it runs in families. To get this disease, each of your parents must pass you a copy of the faulty GALC gene. (See: Autosomal recessive pattern)
This condition is very rare. It is most common among people of Scandinavian descent.
Call your health care provider if your child develops symptoms of this disorder. Seizures, loss of consciousness, or abnormal posturing may be emergency symptoms.
Genetic counseling is recommended for persons with a family history of Krabbe disease who are considering having children.
A blood test can be done to see if you carry the gene for Krabbe disease.
Prenatal tests (amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling) can be done to screen a developing baby for this condition.
Vanier M. Disorders of sphingolipid metabolism. In: Fernandes J, Saudubray J-m, van den Berghe G, Walter JH, eds. Metabolic Diseases: Diagnosis and Treatment. 4th ed. New York, NY:Springer; 2006:chap 38.
Chad Haldeman-Englert, MD, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Section on Medical Genetics, Winston-Salem, NC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.