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Genetic Linkage

Rare Disease Day 2022: Juvenile Huntington’s Disease

In honor of Rare Disease Day 2022, February 28th, I'm reposting a DNA Science story from nine years ago. February 16th was 12 years since Jane Mervar lost her young daughter to Huntington's disease (HD). Thank you

Jane for always sharing your story! (Updates are in parentheses.)

 

Looking back, signs that Jane Mervar's husband, Karl, had HD started when their youngest daughter, Karli, began to have trouble paying attention in school. Karl had become abusive, paranoid, and unemployable due to his drunken appearance. Karli, born in September 1996, was hyperactive and had difficulty following directions.

 

When by age 5 Karli's left side occasionally stiffened and her movements slowed, Jane began the diagnostic journey that would end with Karli's diagnosis of HD, which had affected her paternal grandmother.

 

Soon Karli could no longer skip, hop, or jump. New troubles emerged. "She had cold sweats, tachycardia, and chronic itching. She fell and suffered chronic pain. By age 6 she was losing her speech and became withdrawn," Jane recalls. Karli drooled and her speech became unintelligible. By age 7 her weight had plunged, and by age 8 she had developed pneumonia three times, due to difficulty swallowing. By age 9 she required a feeding tube, suffered seizures, and would go long periods without sleep.

 

An Adult's Disease in a Child

 

This isn't the way that a disease is supposed to run in families, striking child before parent. HD is regarded as a disease of adulthood, but in fact about 10 percent of people with the condition are under age 20 – they have juvenile Huntington's disease (JHD).

 

To continue reading, go to DNA Science, where this post first appeared. 

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