BACKGROUND: For a number of persons with rare diseases (RDs) a definite diagnosis remains undiscovered with relevant physical, psychological and social consequences. Undiagnosed RDs (URDs) require other than specialised clinical centres, outstanding molecular investigations, common protocols and dedicated actions at national and international levels; thus, many "Undiagnosed RDs programs" have been gradually developed on the grounds of a well-structured multidisciplinary approach.
METHODS: The Italian Undiagnosed Rare Diseases Network (IURDN) was established in 2016 to improve the level of diagnosis of persons with URD living in Italy. Six Italian Centres of Expertise represented the network. The National Centre for Rare Diseases at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità coordinates the whole project. The software PhenoTips was used to collect the information of the clinical cases.
RESULTS: One hundred and ten cases were analysed between March 2016 and June 2019. The age of onset of the diseases ranged from prenatal age to 51 years. Conditions were predominantly sporadic; almost all patients had multiple organs involvements. A total of 13/71 family cases were characterized by WES; in some families more than one individual was affected, so leading to 20/71 individuals investigated. Disease causing variants were identified in two cases and were associated to previously undescribed phenotypes. In 5 cases, new candidate genes were identified, although confirmatory tests are pending. In three families, investigations were not completed due to the scarce compliance of members and molecular investigations were temporary suspended. Finally, three cases (one familial) remain still unsolved. Twelve undiagnosed clinical cases were then selected to be shared at International level through PhenomeCentral in accordance to the UDNI statement.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results showed a molecular diagnostic yield of 53,8%; this value is comparable to the diagnostic rates reported in other international studies. Cases collected were also pooled with those collected by UDNI International Network. This represents a unique example of global initiative aimed at sharing and validating knowledge and experience in this field. IURDN is a multidisciplinary and useful initiative linking National and International efforts aimed at making timely and appropriate diagnoses in RD patients who still do not have a confirmed diagnosis even after a long time.