Zinc monotherapy is effective in Wilson’s disease patients with mild liver disease diagnosed in childhood: a retrospective study
Springer Science and Business Media LLC -- Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases
DOI 10.1186/1750-1172-9-41
  1. D-penicillamine
  2. Zinc
  3. Kayser-Fleischer
  4. Copper
  5. ATP7B
  6. Children
  7. Liver disease


Wilson’s disease (WD) evolves rapidly and is fatal if untreated. The treatment of WD patients with mild liver disease is not clearly defined. To address this issue, we evaluated long-term outcomes of three treatment regimens (D-penicillamine, zinc or both) in patients diagnosed in childhood.


We retrospectively evaluated efficacy, compliance and reasons for treatment discontinuation in 42 WD patients (median age at diagnosis: 6 years; median follow-up: 12 years) with mild liver disease. Treatment duration for each treatment block until a medication change or completion of follow-up was analyzed. Events of change of treatment were evaluated using Kaplan-Meier analysis.


Total discontinuations due to treatment failure or adverse events were more frequent in patients receiving D-penicillamine (45%) or combination (36%) therapy than in patients receiving zinc (12%) (P = .001 and P = .02, respectively). Treatment failure was more frequent on D-penicillamine (28%) and combination therapy (36%) than on zinc (12%); the difference was statistically significant only between zinc and combination therapy (P = .03). First-line zinc monotherapy controlled WD-related liver disease in 13/15 patients (87%); the two subjects that failed on zinc were poor adherent. Zinc was effective in 3/5 (60%) patients that failed on D-penicillamine and combination regimens. All 15 D-penicillamine responders that switched to zinc had good control of liver disease at a median follow-up of 13.1 years. Among 6 D-penicillamine non-responders that switched to zinc, 4 (67%) responded. At follow-up completion, only 5/42 (12%) patients failed. Adverse event-induced discontinuation was significantly more frequent in patients on D-penicillamine than in patients receiving zinc (P = .03).


Zinc monotherapy is effective in controlling WD-related liver disease both as first-line and as maintenance treatment in patients with mild liver disease diagnosed in childhood.