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What is Favism?

What is Favism?

Dehydrogenase deficiency's official medical name is G6PD deficiency (Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase deficiency). G6PD helps our body's enzymes metabolize glucose. Due to lack of G6PD,  patients may react and cause hemolytic when pong to infections, certain medications, mothballs, or eat fava beans. This hemolysis may lead to death if untreated. Because eating fava beans may lead to hemolytic disease, the disease commonly known as favism.

Favism was originated  in Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia. It is estimated that there are at least 200 million favism patients worldwide. An interesting phenomenon is that favism patients will not be be infected with malaria, because they have defective red blood cells that are not suitable for the growth of the parasite.

The reason of red blood cell breakdown

The reason why favism patients are prone to hemolysis relates to the decreased ability of oxygen free radicals in their red blood cells.  Normal red blood cells contain sufficient quantities of the enzyme G6PD, G6PD glucose metabolism produces glutathione, which has strong antioxidant capacity.

When we are infected by certain bacterial or viral infection, or certain drugs, or eat fava beans, the body will increase the production of oxygen free radicals and leads to an increase of the oxidative stress (oxidant stress). Normally,  G6PD reaction is involved in glucose metabolism, which increases several times, resulting in a large number of glutathione to restore the harmful oxidative stress.

Patients with dehydrogenase deficiency do not have enough  G6PD in red blood cells. When oxidative stress increases, the body cannot produce enough glutathione to remove excess oxygen free radicals, leading to damage of hemoglobin and cell membrane in red blood cells and causes hemolytic reactions.

蠶豆症的正式醫學名稱是G6PD 缺乏症(Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase deficiency)。G6PD的中文名稱是葡萄糖-六-磷酸鹽脫氫,它是一種在我們體內幫忙代謝葡萄糖的酵素。蠶豆症的患者因為體內缺乏G6PD,所以在踫到某些感染、某些藥物、樟腦丸,或吃到蠶豆時可能引起溶血反應,這種溶血反應若未經治療可能導致死亡。因為吃到蠶豆(fava beans)可能發病溶血,所以俗稱蠶豆症(favism)。
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