What is G6PD- Glucose 6 Phosphate Dehydrogenase?
Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency is a genetic disorder that affects red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to tissues throughout the body. In affected individuals, a defect in an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase causes red blood cells to break down prematurely. This destruction of red blood cells is called hemolysis.
The most common medical problem associated with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency is hemolytic anemia, which occurs when red blood cells are destroyed faster than the body can replace them. This type of anemia leads to paleness, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), dark urine, fatigue, shortness of breath, and a rapid heart rate. In people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, hemolytic anemia is most often triggered by bacterial or viral infections or by certain drugs (such as some antibiotics and medications used to treat malaria). Hemolytic anemia can also occur after eating fava beans or inhaling pollen from fava plants (a reaction called favism).
Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency is also a significant cause of mild to severe jaundice in newborns. Many people with this disorder, however, never experience any signs or symptoms and are unaware that they have the condition.
Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency results from mutations in the G6PD gene. This gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. This enzyme is involved in the normal processing of carbohydrates. It also protects red blood cells from the effects of potentially harmful molecules called reactive oxygen species, which are byproducts of normal cellular functions. Chemical reactions involving glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase produce compounds that prevent reactive oxygen species from building up to toxic levels within red blood cells.
If mutations in the G6PD gene reduce the amount of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase or alter its structure, this enzyme can no longer play its protective role. As a result, reactive oxygen species can accumulate and damage red blood cells. Factors such as infections, certain drugs, or ingesting fava beans can increase the levels of reactive oxygen species, causing red blood cells to be destroyed faster than the body can replace them. A reduction in the number of red blood cells causes the signs and symptoms of hemolytic anemia.
Researchers believe that people who have a G6PD mutation may be partially protected against malaria, an infectious disease carried by a certain type of mosquito. A reduction in the amount of functional glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase appears to make it more difficult for this parasite to invade red blood cells. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency occurs most frequently in areas of the world where malaria is common.
Other Names for This Condition
- Deficiency of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase
- G6PD deficiency
- Glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency