The aetio-pathogenesis of sensory ataxic syndromes is not well understood. Several factors have been implicated ranging from infectious agents to various toxico-nutritional mechanisms. Vitamin deficiencies have been demonstrated in individuals with this disorder. In recent times, the deficiencies of essential trace elements have been implicated, especially zinc, copper, selenium and manganese, in the etiology of ataxic syndromes. We report the levels of essential trace metals and vitamins in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of twelve patients with features of sensory ataxia. The levels of the vitamins and the elements were determined by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The serum and CSF levels of copper, iron and zinc were significantly reduced when compared to controls, but the levels of magnesium were lower in controls than subjects. The levels of manganese were comparable in both groups. Our obsevation supports the possible role of deficiencies of essential trace metals; specifically copper, iron and zinc; and vitamins in the aetio-pathogenetic mechanism of sensory ataxic syndromes, probably due to defective prevention of oxidative damage to the neurones. The significance of the higher levels of magnesium in the patients is unclear and needs further investigation. Further studies with larger sample sizes are needed to confirm this observation.
Keywords: ataxia, trace metals, vitamins, Nigerians
Nigerian Journal of Health and Biomedical Sciences Vol. 4(2) 2005: 156–160