The Importance of Neonatal Screening for Galactosemia

Nutrients. 2022 Dec 20;15(1):10. doi: 10.3390/nu15010010.


Galactosemia is an inborn metabolic disorder caused by a deficient activity in one of the enzymes involved in the metabolism of galactose. The first description of galactosemia in newborns dates from 1908, ever since complex research has been performed on cell and animal models to gain more insights into the molecular and clinical bases of this challenging disease. In galactosemia, the newborn appears to be born in proper health, having a window of opportunity before developing major morbidities that may even be fatal following ingestion of milk that contains galactose. Galactosemia cannot be cured, but its negative consequences on health can be avoided by establishing precocious diagnosis and treatment. All the foods that contain galactose should be eliminated from the diet when there is a suspicion of galactosemia. The neonatal screening for galactosemia can urge early diagnosis and intervention, preventing complications. All galactosemia types may be detected during the screening of newborns for this disorder. The major target is, however, galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase (GALT) deficiency galactosemia, which is diagnosed by applying a combination of total galactose and GALT enzyme analysis as well as, in certain programs, mutation screening. Most critically, infants who exhibit symptoms suggestive of galactosemia should undergo in-depth testing for this condition even when the newborn screening shows normal results. The decision to enroll global screening for galactosemia among the specific population still faces many challenges. In this context, the present narrative review provides an updated overview of the incidence, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, therapy, and prognosis of galactosemia, questioning under the dome of these aspects related to the disease the value of its neonatal monitoring.

Keywords: UDP galactose-4-epimerase; galactokinase; galactose mutarotase; galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase; galactose-restricted diet; galactosemia; incidence; newborn screening; therapeutical approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Galactose / metabolism
  • Galactosemias* / diagnosis
  • Galactosemias* / genetics
  • Galactosemias* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mutation
  • Neonatal Screening / methods
  • UTP-Hexose-1-Phosphate Uridylyltransferase / genetics


  • Galactose
  • UTP-Hexose-1-Phosphate Uridylyltransferase

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.