Vitamin B12 deficiency: case report and review of literature

Pan Afr Med J. 2021 Mar 4:38:237. doi: 10.11604/pamj.2021.38.237.20967. eCollection 2021.


Vitamin B12 deficiency in early childhood is an important cause of neurodevelopmental delay and regression. Most of these cases occur in exclusively breast-fed infants of deficient mothers. Symptoms and signs of vitamin B12 deficiency appear between the ages of 2 to 12 months and include vomiting, lethargy, failure to thrive, hypotonia, and arrest or regression of developmental skills. Approximately one half of this cases exhibit abnormal movements, variously described as tremors, twitches, chorea, or myoclonus. Urinary concentrations of methylmalonic acid and homocysteine are characteristically elevated in vitamin B12 deficiency. Hyperglycinuria is sometimes present. The early diagnosis and treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency is crucial for significant neurological impairment and long-term prognosis. Treatment with vitamin B12 corrects these metabolic abnormalities very rapidly (within a few days). Vitamin B12 supplementation of pregnant women may prevent neurological and neuroradiological findings of the infants. Because of the importance of vitamin B12 in the development of the foetal and neonatal brain, vegetarian and vegan mothers should be aware of the severe and not fully-reversible damages caused by insufficient nutritional intake of vitamin B12 during pregnancy and lactation. Therefore, efforts should be directed to prevent its deficiency in pregnant and breastfeeding women on vegan diets and their infants. It is also important to take the nutritional history of both infants and their mothers for the early prevention and treatment. Here an interesting case of vitamin B12 deficiency in a 10-month-old boy presented with psychomotor regression, hypotonia and lethargy.

Keywords: Vitamin B12 deficiency; breastfeeding; case report; pallor; psychomotor regression.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Muscle Hypotonia / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care
  • Vitamin B 12 / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / diagnosis*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / drug therapy


  • Vitamin B 12