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Gräsbeck-Imerslund disease

Synonym(s) Familial megaloblastic anemia
Selective cobalamin malabsorption with proteinuria
Prevalence Unknown
Inheritance Autosomal recessive
Age of onset Childhood
  • D51.1
MeSH -
MedDRA -


Disease definition

Imerslund-Grasbeck syndrome (IGS) or selective vitamin B12 (cobalamin) malabsorption with proteinuria is a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by vitamin B12 deficiency commonly resulting in megaloblastic anemia, which is responsive to parenteral vitamin B12 therapy and appears in childhood.


The syndrome was first described in Finland and Norway where the prevalence is about 1/200 000.

Clinical description

Other manifestations include failure to thrive and grow, infections and neurological damage. Mild proteinuria (with no signs of kidney disease) is present in about half of the patients. Anatomical anomalies in the urinary tract were observed in some Norwegian patients. Vitamin B12 absorption tests show low absorption, not corrected by administration of intrinsic factor. The symptoms appear from 4 months (not immediately after birth as in transcobalamin deficiency) up to several years after birth.


The cause is a defect in the receptor of the vitamin B12-intrinsic factor complex of the ileal enterocyte. In most cases, the molecular basis of the selective malabsorption and proteinuria involves a mutation in one of two genes, cubilin (CUBN) on chromosome 10 or amnionless (AMN) on chromosome 14. Both the proteins are components of the intestinal receptor for the vitamin B12-intrinsic factor complex and the receptor mediating the tubular reabsorption of protein from the primary urine.

Management and treatment

Management includes life-long vitamin B12 injections, and with this regimen, the patients stay healthy for decades. However, the proteinuria persists. In diagnosing this disease, it is important to be aware that cobalamin deficiency affects enterocyte function; therefore, all tests suggesting general and cobalamin malabsorption should be repeated after abolishment of the deficiency.

Expert reviewer(s)

  • Pr Ralph GRÄSBECK

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