Prevalence of mitochondrial DNA disease in adults

Ann Neurol. 2008 Jan;63(1):35-9. doi: 10.1002/ana.21217.


Objective: Diverse and variable clinical features, a loose genotype-phenotype relationship, and presentation to different medical specialties have all hindered attempts to gauge the epidemiological impact of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) disease. Nevertheless, a clear understanding of its prevalence remains an important goal, particularly about planning appropriate clinical services. Consequently, the aim of this study was to accurately define the prevalence of mtDNA disease (primary mutation occurs in mtDNA) in the working-age population of the North East of England.

Methods: Adults with suspected mitochondrial disease in the North East of England were referred to a single neurology center for investigation from 1990 to 2004. Those with pathogenic mtDNA mutations were identified and pedigree analysis performed. For the midyear period of 2001, we calculated the minimum point prevalence of mtDNA disease for adults of working age (>16 and <60/65 years for female/male patients, respectively).

Results: In this population, we found that 9.2 in 100,000 people have clinically manifest mtDNA disease, making this one of the commonest inherited neuromuscular disorders. In addition, a further 16.5 in 100,000 children and adults younger than retirement age are at risk for development of mtDNA disease.

Interpretation: Through detailed pedigree analysis and active family tracing, we have been able to provide revised minimum prevalence figures for mtDNA disease. These estimates confirm that mtDNA disease is a common cause of chronic morbidity and is more prevalent than has been previously appreciated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / epidemiology*
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genetic Testing
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns / genetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics*
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors


  • DNA, Mitochondrial