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The effect of maternal alpha+ -thalassaemia on pregnancy was assessed in the north coastal region of Papua New Guinea (PNG), where malaria is hyperendemic and alpha+ -thalassaemia is extremely common. In a prospective study of 987 singleton hospital deliveries, we correlated maternal alpha-globin genotype with markers of reproductive fitness (age in primigravidae, gravidity, pregnancy interval and the number of miscarriages and stillbirths), Plasmodium falciparum(P. falciparum) infection of the mother and placenta, maternal haemoglobin, preterm delivery and birthweight. The frequency of the -alpha genotype in mothers was 0.61. Markers of reproductive fitness were similar in women with and without alpha+ -thalassaemia. Median haemoglobin concentration during pregnancy and after delivery was about 1.0 g/dl lower in homozygous alpha+ -thalassaemia than in women with a normal alpha- globin genotype (P < or = 0.001). The frequency of placental P. falciparum infection and systemic malaria infection after delivery showed no consistent relationship to alpha-globin genotype. The frequency of preterm delivery and low birthweight did not vary significantly according to maternal alpha-globin genotype. Maternal alpha+ -thalassaemia does not affect reproductive fitness or susceptibility to malaria during pregnancy. Although median haemoglobin concentration was significantly lower in mothers homozygous for alpha+ -thalassaemia than those with a normal alpha-globin genotype, this did not result in an adverse outcome of pregnancy.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Haematol

Publication Date





235 - 241


Adolescent, Adult, Birth Weight, Disease Susceptibility, Endemic Diseases, Female, Genotype, Globins, Hemoglobins, Humans, Infant, Low Birth Weight, Infant, Newborn, Infant, Premature, Malaria, Falciparum, Papua New Guinea, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic, Pregnancy Outcome, Prospective Studies, Reproductive History, alpha-Thalassemia