Arginine to ornithine ratio as a diagnostic marker in patients with positive newborn screening for hyperargininemia

Yue Huang, Rajesh Sharma, Annette Feigenbaum, Chung Lee, Inderneel Sahai, Rossana Sanchez Russo, Juanita Neira, Susan Sklower Brooks, Kelly E. Jackson, Derek Wong, Stephen Cederbaum, Felicitas L. Lacbawan, Charles M. Rowland, Pranoot Tanpaiboon, Denise Salazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Arginase deficiency is a rare inborn error of metabolism that interrupts the final step of the urea cycle. Untreated individuals often present with episodic hyperammonemia, developmental delay, cognitive impairment, and spasticity in early childhood. The newborn screening (NBS) algorithms for arginase deficiency vary between individual states in the US but often include hyperargininemia and elevated arginine to ornithine (Arg/Orn) ratio. Here, we report 14 arginase deficiency cases, including two patients with positive NBS for hyperargininemia in whom the diagnosis of arginase deficiency was delayed owing to normal or near normal plasma arginine levels on follow-up testing. To improve the detection capability for arginase deficiency, we evaluated plasma Arg/Orn ratio as a secondary diagnostic marker in positive NBS cases for hyperargininemia. We found that plasma Arg/Orn ratio combined with plasma arginine was a better marker than plasma arginine alone to differentiate patients with arginase deficiency from unaffected newborns. In fact, elevated plasma arginine in combination with an Arg/Orn ratio of ≥1.4 identified all 14 arginase deficiency cases. In addition, we examined the impact of age on plasma arginine and ornithine levels. Plasma arginine increased 0.94 μmol/L/day while ornithine was essentially unchanged in the first 31 days of life, which resulted in a similar increasing trend for the Arg/Orn ratio (0.01/day). This study demonstrated that plasma Arg/Orn ratio as a secondary diagnostic marker improved the detection capability for arginase deficiency in newborns with hyperargininemia, which will allow timely detection of arginase deficiency and hence initiation of treatment before developing symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100735
JournalMolecular Genetics and Metabolism Reports
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology


  • Arg/Orn ratio
  • Arginase deficiency
  • Arginine
  • NBS
  • Newborn screening
  • Ornithine


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