Vici Syndrome – Causes, Treatment and Prevention


Vici syndrome, also known as immunodeficiency with cleft lip/palate, hypopigmentation, and absent corpus callosum, is an extremely rare genetic disorder characterized by a combination of distinctive features affecting various systems of the body. Individuals typically exhibit immune system deficiencies, resulting in an increased susceptibility to infections. This immunodeficiency is often accompanied by facial abnormalities, such as cleft lip and/or palate, as well as hypopigmentation of the skin and hair. Another hallmark is the absence or underdevelopment of the corpus callosum, the structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. This neurological aspect contributes to developmental delays and intellectual disabilities in affected individuals.

It is caused by mutations in the EPG5 gene, which plays a crucial role in autophagy, a cellular process responsible for the removal of damaged or unnecessary cellular components. The dysfunction of autophagy in individuals with Vici syndrome leads to the accumulation of cellular debris and contributes to the multisystemic nature of the disorder. Due to its rarity and the severity of the associated symptoms, it poses significant challenges for medical management, and treatment is often focused on addressing specific symptoms and providing supportive care.

Pathophysiology of Vici syndrome

It is primarily associated with mutations in the EPG5 (ectopic P-granules autophagy protein 5 homolog) gene, located on chromosome 18. The EPG5 gene is essential for the process of autophagy, a cellular mechanism responsible for the degradation and recycling of damaged or unnecessary cellular components. Autophagy plays a crucial role in maintaining cellular homeostasis and eliminating intracellular pathogens, contributing to the normal functioning of various tissues and organs. The dysfunction of the EPG5 gene leads to impaired autophagy, resulting in the accumulation of cellular debris, dysfunctional organelles, and protein aggregates within cells. This disruption in the autophagic process has widespread effects on different systems of the body, contributing to the multisystemic nature of the disorder.

The consequences of impaired autophagy are particularly evident in the immune system, where a compromised ability to eliminate pathogens increases the susceptibility to infections. Additionally, the absence or underdevelopment of the corpus callosum in the brain, observed in individuals with Vici syndrome, contributes to neurological abnormalities, developmental delays, and intellectual disabilities. The exact mechanisms by which EPG5 mutations lead to the specific features of Vici syndrome are still an active area of research. Understanding the pathophysiology of Vici syndrome at the molecular and cellular levels is crucial for developing potential therapeutic strategies to manage the condition. Due to the rarity of Vici syndrome, research efforts are ongoing to uncover more about its pathogenesis and potential treatment approaches.


The incidence is unknown. Since the original description of the disorder by Dionisi-Vici and colleagues in 1988, an exponentially increasing number of patients has been reported, with around 50 genetically confirmed cases published to date. It is likely to be rare but probably underdiagnosed.

Causes of Vici syndrome

Mutations in the EPG5 gene cause Vici syndrome. This gene provides instructions for making a protein that is involved in a cellular process called autophagy. Cells use this process to recycle or break down worn-out or unnecessary cell parts. Autophagy also helps cells use materials most efficiently when energy demands are high. In addition to its role in autophagy, the EPG5 protein aids in the body’s immune response to foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses.

The EPG5 gene mutations that cause Vici syndrome lead to production of abnormal EPG5 proteins that do not function. Without functioning EPG5 protein, foreign invaders do not trigger immune reactions, which leads to recurrent infections. In addition, autophagy is impaired. Researchers speculate that problems with autophagy disrupt the normal development and survival of cells in the brain and other organs and tissues that require large amounts of energy; however, they do not fully understand how the impairment leads to signs and symptoms of Vici syndrome.

What are signs and symptoms of Vici syndrome?

It is characterized by a combination of symptoms affecting different systems of the body. The key features include:

  1. Immunodeficiency: Individuals typically have a compromised immune system, making them more susceptible to infections. Recurrent infections, both bacterial and viral, are common and can be severe.
  2. Facial Abnormalities: Many individuals with Vici syndrome exhibit facial anomalies, such as cleft lip and/or palate. These structural abnormalities can contribute to difficulties with feeding and speech.
  3. Hypopigmentation: Hypopigmentation, or a reduction in the pigment of the skin and hair, is a characteristic feature of Vici syndrome. This can result in lighter skin and hair color.
  4. Neurological Abnormalities: The absence or underdevelopment of the corpus callosum, a structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, is a hallmark of Vici syndrome. This can lead to intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, and neurological issues.
  5. Cardiac Abnormalities: Some individuals with Vici syndrome may have congenital heart defects, adding to the complexity of the condition.
  6. Muscle Weakness: Hypotonia, or low muscle tone, is another common feature, contributing to motor skill and developmental challenges.

Given the rarity of Vici syndrome, symptoms can vary among affected individuals, and the severity of each symptom may differ.

Clinical features of EPG5-related Vici syndrome

Risk factors

the primary risk factor is the presence of specific mutations in the EPG5 gene. As a result, the risk is primarily influenced by genetic factors. Here are some key points related to the risk factors:

  • Genetic Mutations: Vici syndrome is primarily caused by having mutations in both copies of the EPG5 gene, following an autosomal recessive pattern. If both parents are carriers, there’s a 25% chance with each pregnancy that the child will inherit two mutated copies and develop Vici syndrome.Top of Form
  • Family History: A family history of Vici syndrome or related genetic disorders can be a relevant factor. If parents have had a child with Vici syndrome or are carriers of the EPG5 gene mutation, they may have an increased risk of having another affected child.
  • Consanguinity: In populations where consanguineous marriages (marriages between close relatives) are more common, there may be an increased risk of recessive genetic disorders like Vici syndrome. Consanguinity increases the likelihood that both parents carry the same rare genetic mutation.

Complications of Vici syndrome

It can lead to various complications due to its impact on different parts of the body. The potential complications include:

  1. Increased Infections: Weakened immune system makes individuals more prone to infections, and these infections can be more severe.
  2. Difficulty in Development: Problems with the development of the brain, including the absence or underdevelopment of the corpus callosum, can lead to delays in learning and intellectual challenges.
  3. Facial Issues: Cleft lip and/or palate may cause difficulties with feeding and speaking.
  4. Muscle Weakness: Low muscle tone (hypotonia) can result in challenges with movement and coordination.
  5. Heart Problems: Some individuals may have heart defects, which can contribute to health complications.
  6. Skin and Hair Changes: Lighter skin and hair color due to reduced pigmentation are common features.
  7. Nutritional Challenges: Difficulties with feeding, particularly in cases with cleft lip/palate, can lead to nutritional issues.


Diagnosis involves a combination of clinical evaluation, medical history assessment, and genetic testing. Here’s an overview of the steps involved in diagnosing Vici syndrome:

Clinical Evaluation

A healthcare provider, often a geneticist or pediatrician, will conduct a thorough physical examination to assess the presence of characteristic features associated with Vici syndrome, such as facial abnormalities, hypopigmentation, and neurological signs. Evaluation of developmental milestones, motor skills, and overall growth will be conducted to identify any delays or abnormalities.

Medical History

Obtaining a detailed medical history, including any family history of genetic disorders, can provide important information about potential genetic risks.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is a key component of diagnosing Vici syndrome. The most common method is to analyze the EPG5 gene for mutations. DNA testing can involve techniques such as targeted gene sequencing or whole-exome sequencing to identify changes in the genetic code associated with Vici syndrome.

Prenatal Diagnosis

In cases where there is a known family history of Vici syndrome or if parents are carriers of the gene mutation, prenatal genetic testing may be considered. This can involve chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis to analyze fetal DNA for the presence of mutations.

Imaging Studies

Brain imaging studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be performed to assess the structure of the brain, particularly looking for abnormalities like the absence or underdevelopment of the corpus callosum.

Immune System Evaluation

Given the immunodeficiency component of Vici syndrome, immune system evaluations, including blood tests, may be conducted to assess the function of the immune system.

Timely identification is vital for proper medical care. Genetic testing is the key diagnostic method, often prompted by clinical signs, and genetic counseling supports affected individuals and their families throughout the diagnostic process.

Treatment for Vici Syndrome

There is no specific cure for Vici syndrome, and treatment primarily focuses on managing the symptoms and providing supportive care. The approach to treatment is often multidisciplinary, involving various healthcare professionals to address the diverse challenges associated with the disorder. It’s essential to consult with healthcare providers for the most up-to-date information on treatment options. Here are general aspects of the management of Vici syndrome:

Symptomatic Management

Treatment is often directed towards addressing specific symptoms. For example, surgeries may be considered to address cleft lip and/or palate, and interventions such as physical therapy may be recommended to address motor skill challenges.

Immunodeficiency Management

Due to the immunodeficiency component, individuals with Vici syndrome may require careful monitoring for infections, and prompt treatment with antibiotics or antiviral medications may be necessary when infections occur.

Nutritional Support

Individuals with feeding difficulties, particularly those with cleft lip and/or palate, may require nutritional support. This can include specialized feeding techniques, the use of feeding tubes, or working with nutritionists to ensure adequate nutrition.

Developmental and Educational Support

Early intervention programs and educational support can be beneficial for individuals with Vici syndrome who may experience developmental delays and intellectual challenges.

Neurological Care

Neurological symptoms and challenges may require ongoing management. This can involve working with neurologists, physical therapists, and other specialists to address issues related to motor skills, coordination, and developmental milestones.

Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling is essential for individuals and families affected by Vici syndrome. This involves providing information about the genetic basis of the disorder, assessing the risk of recurrence in future pregnancies, and discussing family planning options.

How to prevent Vici syndrome?

Prevention strategies are centered around understanding and managing genetic risks. Here are some considerations:

  • Genetic Counseling: Seek genetic counseling before planning a family, especially if there is a family history of Vici syndrome or carriership of the EPG5 gene mutation.
  • Carrier Screening: Consider carrier screening tests to identify if either parent carries a single mutated copy of the EPG5 gene, as having both parents as carriers increases the risk of Vici syndrome.
  • Prenatal Testing: If at risk, explore prenatal testing options like chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis to diagnose Vici syndrome during pregnancy.
  • Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART): In certain cases, couples at risk may consider assisted reproductive technologies, like in vitro fertilization (IVF) with pre-implantation genetic testing (PGT), to select embryos without the EPG5 gene mutation.
  • Stay Informed: Keep updated on medical advancements, as ongoing research may bring new insights or interventions for genetic conditions like Vici syndrome.

Remember that these steps can help manage the risk, but there are no guarantees.

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