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Genetics of Propionic Acidemia (Propionyl CoA Carboxylase Deficiency) Treatment & Management

  • Author: Karl S Roth, MD; Chief Editor: Luis O Rohena, MD  more...
Updated: Nov 17, 2014

Medical Care

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  • Most patients with propionyl coenzyme A (CoA) carboxylase deficiency (propionic acidemia) are so ill at presentation that they have already been admitted to a hospital, which should facilitate appropriate diagnosis and early treatment.
  • Because the usual major metabolic precursors of propionic acid are the essential amino acids (isoleucine, valine, threonine, methionine), halt all protein ingestion and emphasize alternative sources of calories on a temporary basis.
  • Ketoacidosis is best treated with increased carbohydrate calories, bicarbonate replacement, and increased fluids to enhance excretion. In severely ill patients, metabolic reversal can be expedited by an insulin drip, but this should only be administered in an intensive care setting.
  • Reinitiate protein feeding to a level of protein no greater than 1.5 g/kg/d after the patient's condition has normalized. From this point, the patient should be under the care of a biochemical geneticist who may prescribe a special diet prior to discharge.


See the list below:

  • Biochemical geneticist
  • Nutritionist
  • Cardiologist
  • Ophthalmologist


See the list below:

  • Appropriate dietary management is the mainstay of treatment.
  • Several commercially produced formulas are available that provide a protein supplement without any of the 4 amino acids that result in propionate production. However, because they are all essential in humans, closely monitored quantities of isoleucine, valine, threonine, and methionine must be added. For this reason, collaboration between the biochemical geneticist and the nutritionist is imperative.


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  • No restriction is necessary.
Contributor Information and Disclosures

Karl S Roth, MD Retired Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Creighton University School of Medicine

Karl S Roth, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Nutrition, American Pediatric Society, American Society for Nutrition, American Society of Nephrology, Association of American Medical Colleges, Medical Society of Virginia, New York Academy of Sciences, Sigma Xi, Society for Pediatric Research, Southern Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Lois J Starr, MD, FAAP Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Clinical Geneticist, Munroe Meyer Institute for Genetics and Rehabilitation, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Lois J Starr, MD, FAAP is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Luis O Rohena, MD Chief, Medical Genetics, San Antonio Military Medical Center; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, F Edward Hebert School of Medicine; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Luis O Rohena, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Chemical Society, American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, American Society of Human Genetics

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Erawati V Bawle, MD, FAAP, FACMG Retired Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine

Erawati V Bawle, MD, FAAP, FACMG is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, American Society of Human Genetics

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Urea cycle. Compounds that comprise the urea cycle are numbered sequentially, beginning with carbamyl phosphate. At the first step (1), the first waste nitrogen is incorporated into the cycle; also at this step, N-acetylglutamate exerts its regulatory control on the mediating enzyme, carbamyl phosphate synthetase (CPS). Compound 2 is citrulline, the product of condensation between carbamyl phosphate (1) and ornithine (8); the mediating enzyme is ornithine transcarbamylase. Compound 3 is aspartic acid, which is combined with citrulline to form argininosuccinic acid (4); the reaction is mediated by argininosuccinate (ASA) synthetase. Compound 5 is fumaric acid generated in the reaction that converts ASA to arginine (6), which is mediated by ASA lyase.
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