Metabolic disorder kills Vietnamese babies if they drink milk

TN News

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Doctors in Ho Chi Minh City have recorded many recent cases of a congenital metabolic disease that has killed several babies by corrupting the digestive system so that milk becomes poison.

The latest case was a boy who died March 6 after being born healthy on February 28 at Tu Du, a leading obstetrics hospital in the city.

The hospital staff feared that the mother's milk was the cause and they sent samples from the baby to a center in Saudi Arabia, whose results in March 24 confirmed the suspicion, Lao Dong reported.

Dr Vu Te Dang, deputy director of the hospital's Newborn Department, said the baby fell into a coma three days before death after showing signs of rejecting breast milk.

Dang said the boy suffered an inborn error in lipid metabolism.

He said there have been many cases of the disorder recently that have killed babies soon after birth.

The doctor said the hospital helped give birth to three babies with severe metabolism disorder last year, but only managed to save one with problems in galactose processing.

But parents of the surviving child, now nearly one year old, said they lost four previous children to the disorder.

Doctors said the disorder is mostly caused by defects in the gene coding for enzymes that facilitate conversion of various substances into others.

Dang said Tu Du Hospital received one case of inborn errors of metabolism for each 1,000-2,500 births, while a study in British Columbia in 2000 estimated a rate of 1 per 1,400.

The disorder has more than 1,000 variations that effect the processing of galactose, protein, lipids and more.

Doctors said newborns suspected of having the disorder must not have any kind of milk, and should be fed intravenously or with glucose fluid.

Children can be given medication to stimulate the creation of enzymes that facilitate the conversion.

While death is the most severe consequence, survivors will have to live with the disorder, which can develop into growth failure; skin, dental and facial abnormalities; complications to the cardiological and waste-discharging organs; many forms of cancer; as well as abnormal behavior and depression.

Tests on parents to diagnose the possibility of the disorder on their future child are not available in Vietnam. But local hospitals can send their samples to foreign institutes.

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