Marchiafava–Bignami disease is a progressive neurological disease of alcoholism, characterized by corpus callosum demyelination and necrosis and subsequent atrophy. The disease was first described in 1903 by the Italian pathologists Amico Bignami and Ettore Marchiafava in an Italian Chianti drinker. In this autopsy, Marchiafava and Bignami noticed that the middle two-thirds of the corpus callosum were necrotic. It is very difficult to diagnose and there is no specific treatment. Until 2008 only around 300 cases had been reported. If caught early enough, most patients survive.
|This condition affects the corpus callosum|
It is classically associated with chronic alcoholism especially with red wine consumption and sometimes associated nutritional deficiencies. Alcoholism can also cause thiamine deficiency, which is also observed to cause MBD.
Individuals with MBD usually have a history of alcohol abuse, but this is not always the case. The mechanism of the disease is not completely understood, but it is believed to be caused by a Vitamin B deficiency, malnutrition, or alcohol abuse. The damage to the brain can extend into neighboring white matter and sometimes go out as far as subcortical regions.
Marchiafava–Bignami disease is routinely diagnosed with the use of an MRI because the majority of clinical symptoms are non-specific. Before the use of such imaging equipment, it was unable to be diagnosed until autopsy. The patient usually has a history of alcoholism or malnutrition and neurological symptoms are sometimes present and can help lead to a diagnosis. MBD can be told apart from other neural diseases due to the symmetry of the lesions in the corpus callosum as well as the fact that these lesions don’t affect the upper and lower edges.
There are two clinical subtypes of MBD
Treatment is variable depending on individuals. Some treatments work extremely well with some patients and not at all with others. Some treatments include Therapy with thiamine and vitamin B complex. Alcohol consumption should be stopped. Some patients survive, but with residual brain damage and dementia. Others remain in comas that eventually lead to death. Nutritional counseling is also recommended. Treatment is often similar to those administered for Wenicke-Korsakoff syndrome or for alcoholism.
In a study published in 2015, a patient was observed to have MBD, but no history of alcohol abuse. It is believed that he had protein, folic acid, and thiamine deficiencies, which are what caused the demyelination of the corpus callosum. The patient was diagnosed through MRI, but countless other neurological diseases needed to be ruled out initially.
In a study published in 2016, a 45-year-old patient was observed to have taken high amounts of alcohol intake over 20 years and was malnourished. He was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis. He was confused and had a lack of motor coordination. He also had altered sensorium and seizures. An MRI was performed and the patient was diagnosed with MBD.
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- YONGJIAN, C., LEI, Z., XIAOLI, W., WEIWEN, Z., DONGCAI, Y., & YAN, W. (2015). Marchiafava-Bignami disease with rare etiology: A case report. Experimental & Therapeutic Medicine, 9(4), 1515-1517. doi:10.3892/etm.2015.2263
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