A patient with a newly recognised variant of biotinidase deficiency presented with acute loss of vision at the age of 10 years. Progressive bilateral optic neuropathy, spastic paraparesis, and a predominantly motor type neuropathy developed over the next five years. Metabolic investigations revealed biotin depletion causing multiple carboxylase deficiency. The basic defect was a biotin recycling disorder due to a mutant biotinidase with residual activity of 4.4% assayed routinely. Biocytin excretion in urine was only slightly increased. Further investigations on plasma biotinidase revealed biphasic kinetics with two different reduced values for maximum reaction velocity (Vmax) and two for the Michaelis constant (Km), one being almost normal and the other considerably raised. In contrast to this patient, two age matched children with partial biotinidase deficiency (2.8% and 2.9% of normal), but with a normal Km for biocytin, remained asymptomatic. After six months of oral substitution with 10 mg biotin per day the coecocentral and peripheral scotomata regressed, the pyramidal signs in the lower limbs disappeared, and further progression of the motor neuropathy arrested. We conclude that the differential diagnosis of unexplained bilateral optic neuropathy of juvenile onset, particularly when associated with upper and lower motor neuron disease, should include biotinidase deficiency.
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