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Keywords:

  • age of onset;
  • CAG repeat;
  • diagnostic test;
  • family history;
  • Huntington disease;
  • incidence;
  • new mutation rate

The advent of the direct mutation test for Huntington disease (HD) has made it possible to identify a previously unrecognized symptomatic population of HD, including those with an atypical presentation or patients without a family history of HD. The present study investigated the uptake of this test in the province of British Columbia (BC), Canada and assessed the incidence rate and rate of identification of new mutations for HD. All symptomatic individuals residing in BC who were referred for the genetic test for HD between 1993 and 2000 (n=205) were analyzed for CAG expansion, baseline demographics and clinical data, and a family history of HD. A total of 141 (or 68.8%) had a CAG expansion ≥36. Of these, almost one-quarter (24.1%) did not have a family history of HD. An extensive chart review revealed that 11 patients (or 7.8%) had reliable information on both parents (who lived well into old age) and therefore possibly could represent new mutations for HD. This indicates a three to four times higher new mutation rate than previously reported. Our findings also show that the yearly incidence rate for HD was 6.9 per million, which is two times higher than previous incidence studies performed prior to the identification of the HD mutation. We also identified five persons with a clinical presentation of HD but without CAG expansion (genocopies) (2.4%).