Alpha thalassaemia and extended alpha globin genes in Sri Lanka.
Suresh S., Fisher C., Ayyub H., Premawardhena A., Allen A., Perera A., Bandara D., Olivieri N., Weatherall D.
The α-globin genes were studied in nine families with unexplained hypochromic anaemia and in 167 patients with HbE β thalassaemia in Sri Lanka. As well as the common deletion forms of α(+) thalassaemia three families from an ethnic minority were found to carry a novel form of α(0) thalassaemia, one family carried a previously reported form of α(0) thalassaemia, --(THAI), and five families had different forms of non-deletional thalassaemia. The patients with HbE β thalassaemia who had co-inherited α thalassaemia all showed an extremely mild phenotype and reduced levels of HbF and there was a highly significant paucity of α(+) thalassaemia in these patients compared with the normal population. Extended α gene arrangements, including ααα, αααα and ααααα, occurred at a low frequency and were commoner in the more severe phenotypes of HbE β thalassaemia. As well as emphasising the ameliorating effect of α thalassaemia on HbE β thalassaemia the finding of a novel form of α(0) thalassaemia in an ethnic minority, together with an unexpected diversity of forms of non-deletion α thalassaemia in Sri Lanka, further emphasises the critical importance of micro-mapping populations for determining the frequency of clinically important forms of the disease.