Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Lysosomal acid lipase deficiency (LAL-D) is an autosomal recessive condition that may present in a mild form (cholesteryl ester storage disease [CESD]), which mimics non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It has been suggested that CESD may affect 1 in 40,000 and is under-diagnosed in NAFLD clinics. Therefore, we aimed to estimate the prevalence of LAL-D using analysis of genetic variation in LIPA. METHODS: MEDLINE and EMBASE were systematically searched for previously reported disease variants and prevalence estimates. Previous prevalence estimates were meta-analysed. Disease variants in LIPA were annotated with allele frequencies from gnomAD and combined with unreported major functional variants found in humans. Pooled ethnicity-specific prevalences for LAL-D and CESD were calculated using the Hardy-Weinberg equation. RESULTS: Meta-analysis of existing genetic studies estimated the prevalence of LAL-D as 1 per 160,000 (95% CI 1 per 65,025-761,652) using the allele frequency of c.894G>A in LIPA. A total of 98 previously reported disease variants in LIPA were identified, of which 32/98 were present in gnomAD, giving a prevalence of 1 per 307,482 (95% CI 257,672-366,865). Wolman disease was associated with more loss-of-function variants than CESD. When this was combined with 22 previously unreported major functional variants in LIPA identified in humans, the pooled prevalence of LAL-D was 1 per 177,452 (95% CI 149,467-210,683) with a carrier frequency of 1 per 421. The prevalence is lowest in those of East Asian, South Asian, and Finnish ancestry. CONCLUSION: Using 120 disease variants in LIPA, these data can reassure clinicians that LAL-D is an ultra-rare disorder. Given the therapeutic capability of sebelipase alpha, investigation for LAL-D might be included in second-line metabolic screening in NAFLD. LAY SUMMARY: Lysosomal Acid Lipase Deficiency (LAL-D) is a rare genetic condition that can cause severe liver disease, but it is difficult to diagnose and sometimes can look like simple fatty liver. It was not clear how common LAL-D was and whether many cases were being missed. To study this, we searched for all genetic mutations that could cause LAL-D, calculated how common those mutations were, and added them up. This let us estimate that LAL-D affects roughly 1 in 175,000 people. We conclude that LAL-D is a very rare condition, but it is treatable so may be included in a 'second-line' of tests for causes of fatty liver.

Original publication




Journal article


J Hepatol

Publication Date





142 - 150


Dyslipidaemia, Epidemiology, Hepatic steatosis, Lysosomal storage disease, Meta-analysis, DNA Mutational Analysis, Diagnosis, Differential, Gene Frequency, Global Health, Humans, Liver, Mutation, Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Prevalence, Rare Diseases, Sterol Esterase, Wolman Disease