Merck Manual

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Molybdenum Deficiency


Larry E. Johnson

, MD, PhD,

  • Associate Professor of Geriatrics and Family and Preventive Medicine
  • University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
  • Medical Director
  • Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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Molybdenum (Mo) is a component of coenzymes necessary for the activity of xanthine oxidase, sulfite oxidase, and aldehyde oxidase.

Genetic and nutritional deficiencies of molybdenum have been reported but are rare. Genetic sulfite oxidase deficiency was described in 1967 in a child. It resulted from the inability to form the molybdenum coenzyme despite the presence of adequate molybdenum. The deficiency caused intellectual disability, seizures, opisthotonus, and lens dislocation.

Molybdenum deficiency resulting in sulfite toxicity occurred in a patient receiving long-term total parenteral nutrition. Symptoms were tachycardia, tachypnea, headache, nausea, vomiting, and coma. Laboratory tests showed high levels of sulfite and xanthine and low levels of sulfate and uric acid in the blood and urine. Ammonium molybdate 300 mcg/day IV caused dramatic recovery.

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