The natural history of ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T): A systematic review

PLoS One. 2022 Mar 15;17(3):e0264177. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0264177. eCollection 2022.


Background: Ataxia-telangiectasia is an autosomal recessive, multi-system, and life-shortening disease caused by mutations in the ataxia-telangiectasia mutated gene. Although widely reported, there are no studies that give a comprehensive picture of this intriguing condition.

Objectives: Understand the natural history of ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T), as reported in scientific literature.

Search methods: 107 search terms were identified and divided into 17 searches. Each search was performed in PubMed, Ovid SP (MEDLINE) 1946-present, OVID EMBASE 1980 -present, Web of Science core collection, Elsevier Scopus, and Cochrane Library.

Selection criteria: All human studies that report any aspect of A-T.

Data collection and analysis: Search results were de-duplicated, data extracted (including author, publication year, country of origin, study design, population, participant characteristics, and clinical features). Quality of case-control and cohort studies was assessed by the Newcastle-Ottawa tool. Findings are reported descriptively and where possible data collated to report median (interquartile range, range) of outcomes of interest.

Main results: 1314 cases reported 2134 presenting symptoms. The most common presenting symptom was abnormal gait (1160 cases; 188 studies) followed by recurrent infections in classical ataxia-telangiectasia and movement disorders in variant ataxia-telangiectasia. 687 cases reported 752 causes of death among which malignancy was the most frequently reported cause. Median (IQR, range) age of death (n = 294) was 14 years 0 months (10 years 0 months to 23 years 3 months, 1 year 3 months to 76 years 0 months).

Conclusions: This review demonstrates the multi-system involvement in A-T, confirms that neurological symptoms are the most frequent presenting features in classical A-T but variants have diverse manifestations. We found that most individuals with A-T have life limited to teenage or early adulthood. Predominance of case reports, and case series demonstrate the lack of robust evidence to determine the natural history of A-T. We recommend population-based studies to fill this evidence gap.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins / genetics
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins / metabolism
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia* / genetics
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Movement Disorders*
  • Mutation


  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins

Grants and funding

WW is in receipt of an award funding the work from Action for A-T (, A-T Society ( and BrAshA-T ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.