Krabbe disease is an inherited neurodegenerative disease caused by mutations in the galactosylceramidase gene. In the infantile form, patients die before 3 years of age. Systemic adeno-associated virus serotype 9 (AAV9) gene therapy was recently shown to reverse the disease course in human patients in another lethal infantile neurodegenerative disease. To explore AAV9 therapy for Krabbe disease, we engineered a codon-optimized AAV9 galactosylceramidase vector. We further incorporated features to allow AAV9-derived galactosylceramidase to more efficiently cross the blood-brain barrier and be secreted from transduced cells. We tested the optimized vector by a single systemic injection in the twitcher mouse, an authentic Krabbe disease model. Untreated twitcher mice showed characteristic neuropathology and motion defects. They died prematurely with a median life span of 41 days. Intravenous injection in 2-day-old twitcher mice reduced central and peripheral neuropathology and significantly improved the gait pattern and body weight. Noticeably, the median life span was extended to 150 days. Intraperitoneal injection in 6- to 12-day-old twitcher mice also significantly improved the motor function, body weight, and median life span (to 104 days). Our results far exceed the ≤70 days median life span seen in all reported stand-alone systemic AAV therapies. Our study highlights the importance of vector engineering for Krabbe disease gene therapy. The engineered vector warrants further development.