History of HPU

Pyrroles belong to the group of compounds associated with a condition known as HPU, kryptopyrroluria or KPU, but also as the  ‘mauve factor’ or ‘china doll disease’. The name kryptopyrroluria is derived from the chemical compounds kryptopyrroles, which can be found in the urine in certain individuals.

KPU is caused by a disturbance in the breakdown of haem-containing compounds such as haemoglobin, myoglobin, cytochrome and many others. These substances have usually been excreted via the urine for a certain period of time because of deficits of stress minerals and vitamins. KPU is an acquired and not genetically controlled.

Pyrroles belong to the chemical group of indoles. Already around 1900, the presence of indoles in the urine was being investigated. and a link sought to the occurrence of psychological symptoms. The investigation of indoles was intensified in 1961 in the United States following the discovery  of pyrroles in the urine of 27 of 32 patients with schizophrenia. At this time, pyrroles were known as  the ‘mauve factor’ since a positive result gave a lavender colour using paper chromatography. At around the same time, researchers established a link to another psychiatric disease: psychosis.

In the mid-1960s, a study was carried out in which the urine of a mixed group of random non-psychiatric individuals and psychiatric patients  was examined for the presence of the mauve factor. Kryptopyrrole was found in only 11% of non-psychiatric individuals , yet in 42 % of psychiatric patients. The schizophrenic patients scored even higher, with 52% having mauve factor in their urine.

In the late 1960s,  Canadian researchers elucidated the chemical structure of the ‘mauve factor’ as kryptopyrrole. The symptomatology during that period was referred to as the ‘china doll disease’, derived from the white faces of China dolls. Most individuals with kryptopyrroluria have pale faces which are often sun-sensitive, therefore they tend to avoid bright sunlight.

The last important contribution was made by American psychiatrist Dr. C.C. Pfeiffer, who wrote the book Mental Illness and Schizophrenia in 1987. In this he devoted considerable attention to the meaning of kryptopyrrole in the psychiatric field.

Though Dr. John Kamsteeg acknowledges that Dr. Pfeiffer carried out important work, he believes it is a shame that kryptopyrroluria was classified as a psychiatric illness. “That it has been detected in psychiatry, has harmed the acceptance of this clinical picture,” he says in the book have you HPU? “Psychic complaints may form part of the set of symptoms. But the severe psychiatric disorders you see really only in people who have a very high concentration in their urine of the mauve factor.”