Global prevalence of Rett syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis

Syst Rev. 2023 Jan 16;12(1):5. doi: 10.1186/s13643-023-02169-6.


Background: Rett syndrome is a rare, severe neurodevelopmental disorder. Almost all cases occur in girls, in association with spontaneous (non-inherited) mutations involving the methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 gene located on the X chromosome. Diagnostic criteria for typical Rett syndrome require a period of regression, followed by recovery or stabilization, and fulfillment of all four main criteria (loss of purposeful hand skills, loss of spoken language, gait abnormalities, and stereotypic hand movements). Our objective was to estimate the prevalence of Rett syndrome in the general population, stratified by sex.

Methods: We conducted a search of PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, LILACS, and LIVIVO to retrieve studies published in English between Jan. 1, 2000, and June 30, 2021. Pooled prevalence with a 95% confidence interval (CI) was estimated using a random-effects meta-analysis based on a generalized linear mixed model with a logit link.

Results: Ten eligible studies were identified (all in females), with a combined sample size of 9.57 million women and 673 Rett syndrome cases. The pooled prevalence estimate (random effects) was 7.1 per 100,000 females (95% CI: 4.8, 10.5, heterogeneity p < 0.001). Despite greatly variable precision of estimation, all estimates were compatible with a prevalence range of approximately 5 to 10 cases per 100,000 females based on their respective 95% CIs.

Conclusion: These findings may facilitate planning of therapeutic trials in this indication in terms of target sample size and accrual times.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Incidence; MECP2; Meta-analysis; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Prevalence; Rare diseases; Rett syndrome (RTT); Systematic literature review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Prevalence
  • Rett Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Rett Syndrome* / genetics


  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2