Epidemiology, methods of diagnosis, and clinical management of patients with arginase 1 deficiency (ARG1-D): A systematic review

Mol Genet Metab. 2022 Sep-Oct;137(1-2):153-163. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2022.08.005. Epub 2022 Aug 25.


Background: Arginase 1 Deficiency (ARG1-D) is a rare, progressive, metabolic disorder that is characterized by devastating manifestations driven by elevated plasma arginine levels. It typically presents in early childhood with spasticity (predominately affecting the lower limbs), mobility impairment, seizures, developmental delay, and intellectual disability. This systematic review aims to identify and describe the published evidence outlining the epidemiology, diagnosis methods, measures of disease progression, clinical management, and outcomes for ARG1-D patients.

Methods: A comprehensive literature search across multiple databases such as MEDLINE, Embase, and a review of clinical studies in ClinicalTrials.gov (with results reported) was carried out per PRISMA guidelines on 20 April 2020 with no date restriction. Pre-defined eligibility criteria were used to identify studies with data specific to patients with ARG1-D. Two independent reviewers screened records and extracted data from included studies. Quality was assessed using the modified Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for non-comparative studies.

Results: Overall, 55 records reporting 40 completed studies and 3 ongoing studies were included. Ten studies reported the prevalence of ARG1-D in the general population, with a median of 1 in 1,000,000. Frequently reported diagnostic methods included genetic testing, plasma arginine levels, and red blood cell arginase activity. However, routine newborn screening is not universally available, and lack of disease awareness may prevent early diagnosis or lead to misdiagnosis, as the disease has overlapping symptomology with other diseases, such as cerebral palsy. Common manifestations reported at time of diagnosis and assessed for disease progression included spasticity (predominately affecting the lower limbs), mobility impairment, developmental delay, intellectual disability, and seizures. Severe dietary protein restriction, essential amino acid supplementation, and nitrogen scavenger administration were the most commonly reported treatments among patients with ARG1-D. Only a few studies reported meaningful clinical outcomes of these interventions on intellectual disability, motor function and adaptive behavior assessment, hospitalization, or death. The overall quality of included studies was assessed as good according to the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale.

Conclusions: Although ARG1-D is a rare disease, published evidence demonstrates a high burden of disease for patients. The current standard of care is ineffective at preventing disease progression. There remains a clear need for new treatment options as well as improved access to diagnostics and disease awareness to detect and initiate treatment before the onset of clinical manifestations to potentially enable more normal development, improve symptomatology, or prevent disease progression.

Keywords: Argininemia; Hyperargininemia; Inborn errors of metabolism; Newborn screening; Pegzilarginase; Urea cycle disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Arginase / genetics
  • Arginine / therapeutic use
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Hyperargininemia* / diagnosis
  • Hyperargininemia* / epidemiology
  • Hyperargininemia* / genetics
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Muscle Spasticity / diagnosis
  • Muscle Spasticity / epidemiology
  • Muscle Spasticity / genetics
  • Nitrogen
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Seizures / etiology


  • Arginase
  • Arginine
  • Amino Acids, Essential
  • Nitrogen