Background: Leigh syndrome is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, associated with primary or secondary dysfunction of the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Despite the fact that Leigh syndrome is the most common phenotype of mitochondrial disorders in children, longitudinal natural history data is missing. This study was undertaken to assess the phenotypic and genotypic spectrum of patients with Leigh syndrome, characterise the clinical course and identify predictors of survival in a large cohort of patients.
Methods: This is a retrospective study of patients with Leigh syndrome that have been followed at eight centers specialising in mitochondrial diseases in Europe; Gothenburg, Rotterdam, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Brussels, Bergen and Oulu.
Results: A total of 130 patients were included (78 males; 52 females), of whom 77 patients had identified pathogenic mutations. The median age of disease onset was 7 months, with 80.8% of patients presenting by the age of 2 years. The most common clinical features were abnormal motor findings, followed by abnormal ocular findings. Epileptic seizures were reported in 40% of patients. Approximately 44% of patients experienced acute exacerbations requiring hospitalisation during the previous year, mainly due to infections. The presence of pathological signs at birth and a history of epileptic seizures were associated with higher occurrence of acute exacerbations and/or relapses. Increased lactate in the cerebrospinal fluid was significantly correlated to a more severe disease course, characterised by early onset before 6 months of age, acute exacerbations and/or relapses, as well as brainstem involvement. 39% of patients had died by the age of 21 years, at a median age of 2.4 years. Disease onset before 6 months of age, failure to thrive, brainstem lesions on neuroimaging and intensive care treatment were significantly associated with poorer survival.
Conclusions: This is a multicenter study performed in a large cohort of patients with Leigh syndrome. Our data help define the natural history of Leigh syndrome and identify novel predictors of disease severity and long-term prognosis.