Diagnosis of Spinocerebellar Ataxia in the West Indies

  • Ashley K. Yearwood
  • Shruthi Rethi
  • Karla P. Figueroa
  • Ruth H. Walker
  • Andrew K. Sobering

Abstract

Background: Access to medical care in many regions is limited by socioeconomic status, at both the individual and the community level. This report describes the diagnostic process of a family residing on an underserved Caribbean island where routine neurological care is typically addressed by general practitioners, and genetic diagnosis is not available through regular medical channels. The diagnosis and management of neurodegenerative disorders is especially challenging in this setting.

Case Report: We diagnosed a family with spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3) in an underdeveloped nation with limited access to genetic medicine and no full-time neurologist.

Discussion: Molecular diagnosis of the SCAs can be challenging, even in developed countries. In the Caribbean, genetic testing is generally only available at a small number of academic centers. Diagnosis in this family was ultimately made by utilizing an international, pro bono, research-based collaborative process. Although access to appropriate resources, such as speech, physical, and occupational therapies, is limited on this island because of economic and geographical factors, the provision of a diagnosis appeared to be ultimately beneficial for this family. Identification of affected families highlights the need for access to genetic diagnosis in all communities, and can help direct resources where needed.