Background: Silvery hair and severe dysfunction of the central nervous system (neuroectodermal melanolysosomal disease or Elejalde syndrome) characterize this rare autosomal recessive disease. Main clinical features include silver-leaden hair, bronze skin after sun exposure, and neurologic involvement (seizures, severe hypotonia, and mental retardation). Large granules of melanin unevenly distributed in the hair shaft are observed. Abnormal melanocytes and melanosomes and abnormal inclusion bodies in fibroblasts may be present. Differential diagnosis with Chédiak-Higashi syndrome and Griscelli syndrome must be done.
Observations: We studied pediatric patients with silvery hair and profound neurologic dysfunction. Immune impairment was absent. Age of onset of neurologic signs ranged from 1 month to 11 years; the signs included severe muscular hypotonia, ocular alterations, and seizures. Mental retardation since the first months of life was noted in 4 cases. Psychomotor development was normal in 3 cases, but suddenly the patients presented with a regressive neurologic process. Four patients died between 6 months and 3 years after the onset of neurologic dysfunction. One patient showed characteristic ultrastructural findings of Elejalde syndrome.
Conclusions: Elejalde syndrome is different from Chédiak-Higashi and Griscelli syndrome and is characterized by silvery hair and frequent occurrence of fatal neurologic alterations. Psychomotor impairment may have 2 forms of presentation: congenital or infantile. Although Elejalde syndrome and Griscelli syndrome are similar, the possibility that they are 2 different diseases, although probably allelic related, is suggested.