SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574
OBJECTIVE: To determine the frequency and distribution of polyglutamine spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) from referrals over a 24-year period to the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) in South Africa (SA). METHODS: Paper-based clinical reports in the University of Cape Town laboratory and the NHLS electronic patient record database spanning a 24-year period were mined for information regarding the molecular diagnosis, ethnicity and CAG repeat length for individuals referred for molecular genetic testing for the polyglutamine SCAs. RESULTS: SCA1 and 7 are the most frequent types of polyglutamine SCA in the SA patient population, followed by SCA2, 3 and 6. SCA1 is the most common type in the coloured, white and Indian populations, whereas the majority of indigenous black African patients are affected with SCA7 and 2. Of individuals tested, 22% were found to be positive for one of the polyglutamine SCAs. CONCLUSION: Although trends in the frequency and distribution of the polyglutamine SCAs in SA have not changed significantly since our previous study in 2003, they differ remarkably from those reported elsewhere, and reflect the unique genetic and demographic background of SA. The provision of accurate and complete patient information and family history is crucial to the diagnostic process, to enable comprehensive epidemiological studies and assist in developing therapeutic and patient management strategies.