Genetic diagnosis of haemophilia and other inherited bleeding disorders


Flora Peyvandi, MD, PhD, Department of Medicine and Medical Specialities, IRCCS Maggiore Hospital, Mangiagalli and Regina Elena Foundation, Luigi Villa Foundation, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.
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Summary.  Inherited deficiencies of plasma proteins involved in blood coagulation generally lead to lifelong bleeding disorders, whose severity is inversely proportional to the degree of factor deficiency. Haemophilia A and B, inherited as X-linked recessive traits, are the most common hereditary hemorrhagic disorders caused by a deficiency or dysfunction of blood coagulation factor VIII (FVIII) and factor IX (FIX). Together with von Willebrand's disease, a defect of primary haemostasis, these X-linked disorders include 95% to 97% of all the inherited deficiencies of coagulation factors. The remaining defects, generally transmitted as autosomal recessive traits, are rare with prevalence of the presumably homozygous forms in the general population of 1:500.000 for FVII deficiency and 1 in 2 million for prothrombin (FII) and factor XIII (FXIII) deficiency. Molecular characterization, carrier detection and prenatal diagnosis remain the key steps for the prevention of the birth of children affected by coagulation disorders in developing countries, where patients with these deficiencies rarely live beyond childhood and where management is still largely inadequate. These characterizations are possible by direct or indirect genetic analysis of genes involved in these diseases, and the choice of the strategy depends on the effective available budget and facilities to achieve a large benefit. In countries with more advanced molecular facilities and higher budget resources, the most appropriate choice in general is a direct strategy for mutation detection. However, in countries with limited facilities and low budget resources, carrier detection and prenatal diagnosis are usually performed by linkage analysis with genetic markers. This article reviews the genetic diagnosis of haemophilia, genetics and inhibitor development, genetics of von Willebrand's disease and of rare bleeding disorders.