Brain damage in infancy and dietary vitamin B12 deficiency

Med J Aust. 1979 Jul 14;2(1):1-3. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1979.tb112643.x.


A case of the exclusively breast-fed infant of a vegetarian mother is reported. Neurological deterioration commenced between three and six months of age, and progressed to a comatose premoribund state by the age of nine months. Investigations revealed a mild nutritional vitamin B12 deficiency in the mother, and a very severe nutritional B12 deficiency in the infant, with severe megaloblastic anaemia. Treatment of the infant with vitamin B12 resulted in a rapid clinical and haematological improvement, but neurological recovery was incomplete. Evidence is presented that dietary B12 deficiency was the sole cause of the infant's deterioration, and the literature relating to the condition is reviewed. It is recommended that all strict vegetarians (vegans), especially women in the child-bearing age group, take vitamin B12 supplements.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Megaloblastic / complications
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / etiology*
  • Diet, Vegetarian
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Neurologic Manifestations
  • Vitamin B 12 / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / complications*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / drug therapy


  • Vitamin B 12