Objective: Prolonged neonatal jaundice, beyond day 14 of life, is very common and of concern to the clinician. The aim of this study was to investigate whether a genetic mutation in the bilirubin UGT1A1 gene, which has been associated with Gilbert's syndrome in adults, is a contributory factor in prolonged neonatal jaundice.
Study design: Blood was collected from 85 term newborns with unexplained hyperbilirubinemia, and DNA was prepared. The neonates were divided into 6 groups depending on whether they were breast-fed or bottle-fed and whether they had acute, prolonged, or very prolonged jaundice. UGT1A1 TATA promoter genotyping (DNA test for Gilbert's syndrome) was performed on all samples, and analysis of the entire UGT1A1 coding sequence was performed in a representative sample (11 of 26) of very prolonged cases.
Results: In addition to the known common UGT1A1 TATA alleles (TA6 and TA7), a novel TATA allele (TA5) in a neonate with very prolonged jaundice was identified. Statistical analysis of the TATA genotype distributions within the group of breast-fed neonates revealed significant differences among the acute, prolonged, and very prolonged subgroups (.05 > P >.01): the incidence of familial hyperbilirubinemia genotypes (7/7 and 5/7) is 5 times greater in very prolonged cases (31%) relative to acute cases (6%). Neonates with prolonged jaundice from family pedigrees were observed to demonstrate the Gilbert's phenotype as children or young adults.
Conclusions: A genetic predisposition to develop prolonged neonatal hyperbilirubinemia in breast-fed infants is associated with TATA box polymorphism of the UGT1A1 gene and will be recognized as Gilbert's syndrome in adulthood.