A novel molecular basis for beta thalassemia intermedia poses new questions about its pathophysiology.
Premawardhena A., Fisher CA., Olivieri NF., de Silva S., Sloane-Stanley J., Wood WG., Weatherall DJ.
During a study of the molecular basis for severe forms of beta thalassemia in Sri Lanka, 2 patients were found to be heterozygous for beta thalassemia mutations. Further analysis revealed that one of them has a previously unreported molecular basis for severe thalassemia intermedia, homozygosity for quadruplicated alpha globin genes in combination with heterozygous beta thalassemia. The other is homozygous for a triplicated alpha globin gene arrangement and heterozygous for beta thalassemia. Their differences in clinical phenotype are explainable by the interaction of other genetic factors and, in particular, their early management. The clinical course of the 2 propositi underlines the importance of full genotyping and a long period of observation before treatment is instituted, particularly in patients with beta thalassemia intermedia associated with extended alpha globin gene arrangements. The hemoglobin (Hb) F levels in these patients with severe beta thalassemia intermedia, compared with other forms of this condition in the Sri Lankan population and elsewhere, are unusually low, a consistent finding in extended alpha globin gene interactions and in dominant beta thalassemia, raising the possibility that increased levels of HbF production in beta thalassemia may require mutations at both beta globin gene loci.