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1.  Biomarkers of cobalamin (vitamin B-12) status in the epidemiologic setting: a critical overview of context, applications, and performance characteristics of cobalamin, methylmalonic acid, and holotranscobalamin II1234 
Cobalamin deficiency is relatively common, but the great majority of cases in epidemiologic surveys have subclinical cobalamin deficiency (SCCD), not classical clinical deficiency. Because SCCD has no known clinical expression, its diagnosis depends solely on biochemical biomarkers, whose optimal application becomes crucial yet remains unsettled. This review critically examines the current diagnostic concepts, tools, and interpretations. Their exploration begins with understanding that SCCD differs from clinical deficiency not just in degree of deficiency but in fundamental pathophysiology, causes, likelihood and rate of progression, and known health risks (the causation of which by SCCD awaits proof by randomized clinical trials). Conclusions from SCCD data, therefore, often may not apply to clinical deficiency and vice versa. Although many investigators view cobalamin testing as unreliable, cobalamin, like all diagnostic biomarkers, performs satisfactorily in clinical deficiency but less well in SCCD. The lack of a diagnostic gold standard limits the ability to weigh the performance characteristics of metabolic biomarkers such as methylmalonic acid (MMA) and holotranscobalamin II, whose specificities remain incompletely defined outside their relations to each other. Variable cutoff selections affect diagnostic conclusions heavily and need to be much better rationalized. The maximization of reliability and specificity of diagnosis is far more important today than the identification of ever-earlier stages of SCCD. The limitations of all current biomarkers make the combination of ≥2 test result abnormalities, such as cobalamin and MMA, the most reliable approach to diagnosing deficiency in the research setting; reliance on one test alone courts frequent misdiagnosis. Much work remains to be done.
doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.013441
PMCID: PMC3174853  PMID: 21593511
2.  Biomarkers of folate status in NHANES: a roundtable summary123456 
A roundtable to discuss the measurement of folate status biomarkers in NHANES took place in July 2010. NHANES has measured serum folate since 1974 and red blood cell (RBC) folate since 1978 with the use of several different measurement procedures. Data on serum 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5MTHF) and folic acid (FA) concentrations in persons aged ≥60 y are available in NHANES 1999–2002. The roundtable reviewed data that showed that folate concentrations from the Bio-Rad Quantaphase II procedure (Bio-Rad Laboratories, Hercules, CA; used in NHANES 1991–1994 and NHANES 1999–2006) were, on average, 29% lower for serum and 45% lower for RBC than were those from the microbiological assay (MA), which was used in NHANES 2007–2010. Roundtable experts agreed that these differences required a data adjustment for time-trend analyses. The roundtable reviewed the possible use of an isotope-dilution liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) measurement procedure for future NHANES and agreed that the close agreement between the MA and LC-MS/MS results for serum folate supported conversion to the LC-MS/MS procedure. However, for RBC folate, the MA gave 25% higher concentrations than did the LC-MS/MS procedure. The roundtable agreed that the use of the LC-MS/MS procedure to measure RBC folate is premature at this time. The roundtable reviewed the reference materials available or under development at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and recognized the challenges related to, and the scientific need for, these materials. They noted the need for a commutability study for the available reference materials for serum 5MTHF and FA.
doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.013011
PMCID: PMC3127517  PMID: 21593502
3.  Biomarkers of vitamin B-12 status in NHANES: a roundtable summary123456 
A roundtable to discuss the measurement of vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) status biomarkers in NHANES took place in July 2010. NHANES stopped measuring vitamin B-12–related biomarkers after 2006. The roundtable reviewed 3 biomarkers of vitamin B-12 status used in past NHANES—serum vitamin B-12, methylmalonic acid (MMA), and total homocysteine (tHcy)—and discussed the potential utility of measuring holotranscobalamin (holoTC) for future NHANES. The roundtable focused on public health considerations and the quality of the measurement procedures and reference methods and materials that past NHANES used or that are available for future NHANES. Roundtable members supported reinstating vitamin B-12 status measures in NHANES. They noted evolving concerns and uncertainties regarding whether subclinical (mild, asymptomatic) vitamin B-12 deficiency is a public health concern. They identified the need for evidence from clinical trials to address causal relations between subclinical vitamin B-12 deficiency and adverse health outcomes as well as appropriate cutoffs for interpreting vitamin B-12–related biomarkers. They agreed that problems with sensitivity and specificity of individual biomarkers underscore the need for including at least one biomarker of circulating vitamin B-12 (serum vitamin B-12 or holoTC) and one functional biomarker (MMA or tHcy) in NHANES. The inclusion of both serum vitamin B-12 and plasma MMA, which have been associated with cognitive dysfunction and anemia in NHANES and in other population-based studies, was preferable to provide continuity with past NHANES. Reliable measurement procedures are available, and National Institute of Standards and Technology reference materials are available or in development for serum vitamin B-12 and MMA.
doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.013243
PMCID: PMC3127527  PMID: 21593512
4.  LOW COBALAMIN LEVELS ASSOCIATED WITH SICKLE CELL DISEASE: CONTRASTING ORIGINS AND CLINICAL MEANINGS IN TWO INSTRUCTIVE PATIENTS 
American journal of hematology  2010;85(6):436-439.
doi:10.1002/ajh.21678
PMCID: PMC2992813  PMID: 20309855
cobalamin deficiency; pernicious anemia; transcobalamin I deficiency; sickle cell disease; ethnicity; blacks
5.  Mandatory fortification of the food supply with cobalamin: an idea whose time has not yet come 
The success of folic acid fortification has generated consideration of similar fortification with cobalamin for its own sake but more so to mitigate possible neurologic risks from increased folate intake by cobalamin-deficient persons. However, the folate model itself, the success of which was predicted by successful clinical trials and the known favorable facts of high folic acid bioavailability and the infrequency of folate malabsorption, may not apply to cobalamin fortification. Cobalamin bioavailability is more restricted than folic acid and is unfortunately poorest in persons deficient in cobalamin. Moreover, clinical trials to demonstrate actual health benefits of relevant oral doses have not yet been done in persons with mild subclinical deficiency, who are the only practical targets of cobalamin fortification because >94% of persons with clinically overt cobalamin deficiency have severe malabsorption and therefore cannot respond to normal fortification doses. However, it is only in the severely malabsorptive disorders, such as pernicious anemia, not subclinical deficiency, that neurologic deterioration following folic acid therapy has been described to date. It is still unknown whether mild deficiency states, which usually arise from normal absorption or only food-bound cobalamin malabsorption, have real health consequences or how often they progress to overt clinical cobalamin deficiency. Reports of cognitive or other risks in the common subclinical deficiency state, although worrisome, have been inconsistent. Moreover, their observational nature proved neither causative connections nor documented health benefits. Extensive work, especially randomized clinical trials, must be done before mandatory dietary intervention on a national scale can be justified.
doi:10.1007/s10545-010-9150-2
PMCID: PMC3026896  PMID: 20577903
6.  The Laboratory Diagnosis of Megaloblastic Anemias 
Western Journal of Medicine  1978;128(4):294-304.
The diagnostic approach to megaloblastic anemia involves four usually sequential steps. The first step, recognition of megaloblastosis, requires attention to altered blood cell size and morphology. These changes may sometimes be subtle or masked. The cornerstone of the second step, identification of the specific vitamin deficiency, is assay of serum vitamin B12 and folic acid levels, although they may occasionally be misleading. The third step, identification of the specific disease entity responsible for the vitamin deficiency, generally revolves around tests of absorption and gastric function. The fourth step, reevaluation after replacement therapy, is often not thought of as a diagnostic step but carries important diagnostic implications and is sometimes the only way in which coexisting abnormalities can be unmasked and identified.
PMCID: PMC1238100  PMID: 351964

Results 1-6 (6)