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Trimethylaminuria

Abstract

You are reading a NORD Rare Disease Report Abstract. NORD’s full collection of reports on over 1200 rare diseases is available to subscribers (click here for details). We are now also offering two full rare disease reports per day to visitors on our Web site.

NORD is very grateful to Elizabeth Shephard, PhD, Professor of Molecular Biology, Department of Structural and Molecular Biology, University College London and Ian Phillips, PhD, Visiting Professor of Molecular Biology, Department of Structural and Molecular Biology, University College London and Emeritus Professor of Molecular Biology, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, for assistance in the preparation of this report.

Synonyms of Trimethylaminuria

  • fish odor syndrome
  • stale fish syndrome
  • TMAU

Disorder Subdivisions

  • No subdivisions found.

General Discussion

Trimethylaminuria is a rare disorder in which the body's metabolic processes fail to alter the chemical trimethylamine. Trimethylamine is notable for its unpleasant smell. It is the chemical that gives rotten fish a bad smell. When the normal metabolic process fails, trimethylamine accumulates in the body, and its odor is detected in the person's sweat, urine and breath. The consequences of emitting a foul odor can be socially and psychologically damaging among adolescents and adults. The genetic or primary form of this disorder is transmitted as an autosomal recessive trait.

The metabolic deficiency occurs as a result of a failure in the cell to make a specific protein, in this case the enzyme flavin-containing monooxygenase 3. Enzymes are nature's catalysts and act to speed up biochemical processes. Without this enzyme, foods containing carnitine, choline and/or trimethylamine N-oxide are processed to trimethylamine and no further, causing a strong fishy odor. A secondary form of trimethylaminuria may result from the side effects of treatment with large doses of the amino-acid derivative L-carnitine (levocarnitine) or choline. This secondary form of the disorder is a result of an overload of trimethylamine. In this case, there is not enough of the enzyme to get rid of the excess trimethylamine.

Trimethylaminuria Resources

NORD offers an online community for this rare disease. RareConnect was created by EURORDIS (European Rare Disease Organisation) and NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders) to provide a safe space where individuals and families affected by rare diseases can connect with each other, share vital experiences, and find helpful information and resources. You can view these international, rare disease communities at www.rareconnect.org.

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