Leptin receptor (LepR) deficiency is an autosomal-recessive endocrine disorder causing early-onset severe obesity, hyperphagia and pituitary hormone deficiencies. As effective pharmacological treatment has recently been developed, diagnosing LepR deficiency is urgent. However, recognition is challenging and prevalence is unknown. We aim to elucidate the clinical spectrum and to estimate the prevalence of LepR deficiency in Europe.
Comprehensive epidemiologic analysis and systematic literature review.
We curated a list of LEPR variants described in patients and elaborately evaluated their phenotypes. Subsequently, we extracted allele frequencies from the Genome Aggregation Database (gnomAD), consisting of sequencing data of 77 165 European individuals. We then calculated the number of individuals with biallelic disease-causing LEPR variants.
Worldwide, 86 patients with LepR deficiency are published. We add two new patients, bringing the total of published patients to 88, of which 21 are European. All patients had early-onset obesity; 96% had hyperphagia; 34% had one or more pituitary hormone deficiencies. Our calculation results in 998 predicted patients in Europe, corresponding to a prevalence of 1.34 per 1 million people (95% CI: 0.95–1.72).
This study shows that LepR deficiency is more prevalent in Europe (n = 998 predicted patients) than currently known (n = 21 patients), suggesting that LepR deficiency is underdiagnosed. An important cause for this could be lack of access to genetic testing. Another possible explanation is insufficient recognition, as only one-third of patients has pituitary hormone deficiencies. With novel highly effective treatment emerging, diagnosing LepR deficiency is more important than ever.