Highly variable disease courses in siblings with Stargardt disease

D. Valkenburg, E.H. Runhart, N.M. Bax, B. Liefers, S.L. Lambertus, C.I. Sánchez, F.P. Cremers and C.B. Hoyng




Purpose To investigate intersibling phenotypic concordance in Stargardt disease (STGD1).

Design Retrospective cohort study.

Participants Siblings with genetically confirmed STGD1 and at least 1 available fundus autofluorescence (FAF) image of both eyes.

Methods We compared age at onset within families. Disease duration was matched to investigate differences in best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) and compared the survival time for reaching severe visual impairment (<20/200 Snellen or >1.0 logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution [logMAR]). Central retinal atrophy area was quantified independently by 2 experienced graders using semiautomated software and compared between siblings. Both graders performed qualitative assessment of FAF and spectral-domain (SD) OCT images to identify phenotypic differences.

Main Outcome Measures Differences in age at onset, disease duration-matched BCVA, time to severe visual impairment development, FAF atrophy area, FAF patterns, and genotypes.

Results Substantial differences in age at onset were present in 5 of 17 families, ranging from 13 to 39 years. Median BCVA at baseline was 0.60 logMAR (range, –0.20 to 2.30 logMAR; Snellen equivalent, 20/80 [range, 20/12–hand movements]) in the right eye and 0.50 logMAR (range, –0.20 to 2.30 logMAR; Snellen equivalent, 20/63 [range, 20/12–hand movements]) in the left eye. Disease duration-matched BCVA was investigated in 12 of 17 families, and the median difference was 0.41 logMAR (range, 0.00–1.10 logMAR) for the right eye and 0.41 logMAR (range, 0.00–1.08 logMAR) for the left eye. We observed notable differences in time to severe visual impairment development in 7 families, ranging from 1 to 29 years. Median central retinal atrophy area was 11.38 mm2 in the right eye (range, 1.98–44.78 mm2) and 10.59 mm2 in the left eye (range, 1.61–40.59 mm2) and highly comparable between siblings. Similarly, qualitative FAF and SD OCT phenotypes were highly comparable between siblings.

Conclusions Phenotypic discordance between siblings with STGD1 carrying the same ABCA4 variants is a prevalent phenomenon. Although the FAF phenotypes are highly comparable between siblings, functional outcomes differ substantially. This complicates both sibling-based prognosis and genotype-phenotype correlations and has important implications for patient care and management.

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