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      Indirect estimation of the prevalence of spinal muscular atrophy Type I, II, and III in the United States

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          Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a progressive, devastating disease and a leading inherited cause of infant mortality. The limited population-based literature is confined to small regional studies. Estimates of prevalence are needed to characterize the burden of SMA and to understand trends in prevalence by disease type as new treatments become available. The reported estimates of SMA genotype prevalence at birth consistently range from 8.5–10.3 per 100,000 live births, with a mid-range estimate of 9.4 per 100,000. Among infants born with an SMA genotype, it is reported that ~58% will develop SMA Type I, 29% will develop Type II, and 13% will develop Type III, respectively.


          Using evidence from peer-reviewed literature for SMA birth prevalence, age at symptom onset, and SMA type-specific survival, and incorporating United States vital statistics, we constructed life tables to estimate prevalence for SMA Types I, II, and III in the United States. We estimated the number of prevalent cases in the US to be 8526, 9429, and 10,333 based on a birth prevalence of 8.5, 9.4, and 10.3, respectively (the lower, midpoint, and upper ends of the reported range). Assuming the midpoint of 9.4 and US-reported survival, the type-specific population prevalence estimates were 1610 for SMA Type I, 3944 for SMA Type II, and 3875 for SMA Type III. Evidence-based estimates of the number of people living with SMA in the United States in the published literature were previously unavailable.


          In the absence of a survey or other means to directly estimate prevalence in the US population, estimates can be calculated indirectly using a life table.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (10.1186/s13023-017-0724-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 28

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          Identification and characterization of a spinal muscular atrophy-determining gene

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            Quantitative analyses of SMN1 and SMN2 based on real-time lightCycler PCR: fast and highly reliable carrier testing and prediction of severity of spinal muscular atrophy.

            Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a common autosomal recessive disorder in humans, caused by homozygous absence of the survival motor neuron gene 1 (SMN1). SMN2, a copy gene, influences the severity of SMA and may be used in somatic gene therapy of patients with SMA in the future. We present a new, fast, and highly reliable quantitative test, based on real-time LightCycler PCR that amplifies either SMN1 or SMN2. The SMN1 copies were determined and validated in 329 carriers and controls. The specificity of the test is 100%, whereas the sensitivity is 96.2%. The quantitative analysis of SMN2 copies in 375 patients with type I, type II, or type III SMA showed a significant correlation between SMN2 copy number and type of SMA as well as duration of survival. Thus, 80% of patients with type I SMA carry one or two SMN2 copies, and 82% of patients with type II SMA carry three SMN2 copies, whereas 96% of patients with type III SMA carry three or four SMN2 copies. Among 113 patients with type I SMA, 9 with one SMN2 copy lived <11 mo, 88/94 with two SMN2 copies lived <21 mo, and 8/10 with three SMN2 copies lived 33-66 mo. On the basis of SMN2 copy number, we calculated the posterior probability that a child with homozygous absence of SMN1 will develop type I, type II, or type III SMA.
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              Spinal muscular atrophy.

              Spinal muscular atrophy is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disease characterised by degeneration of spinal cord motor neurons, atrophy of skeletal muscles, and generalised weakness. It is caused by homozygous disruption of the survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene by deletion, conversion, or mutation. Although no medical treatment is available, investigations have elucidated possible mechanisms underlying the molecular pathogenesis of the disease. Treatment strategies have been developed to use the unique genomic structure of the SMN1 gene region. Several candidate treatment agents have been identified and are in various stages of development. These and other advances in medical technology have changed the standard of care for patients with spinal muscular atrophy. In this Seminar, we provide a comprehensive review that integrates clinical manifestations, molecular pathogenesis, diagnostic strategy, therapeutic development, and evidence from clinical trials.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0941 6502, GRID grid.189967.8, Rollins School of Public Health, , Emory University, ; Atlanta, GA USA
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0004 0384 8146, GRID grid.417832.b, Biogen, ; Cambridge, MA USA
                [3 ]Epidemiology Associates LLC, Chapel Hill, NC USA
                404-712-9951 ,
                Orphanet J Rare Dis
                Orphanet J Rare Dis
                Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases
                BioMed Central (London )
                28 November 2017
                28 November 2017
                : 12
                © The Author(s). 2017

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef, Biogen;
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                © The Author(s) 2017

                Infectious disease & Microbiology

                prevalence, spinal muscular atrophy, survival


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