Alpha thalassaemia in Papua New Guinea
Oppenheimer SJ., Higgs DR., Weatherall DJ., Barker J., Spark RA.
Haemoglobin Bart's was detected in cord blood samples from 81% of 217 infants born in Madang on the north coast of Papua New Guinea. Analysis of the alpha globin genes of 30 infants and adults from the same region showed that all but 3 were heterozygous or homozygous for the deletion form of alpha + thalassaemia. None of 18 cord blood samples from infants born in Goroka in the Eastern Highlands Province had haemoglobin Bart's, and in each case the alpha globin genes were normal. Preliminary geographical and linguistic analyses of both groups suggest that the prevalence of alpha thalassaemia may be related to altitude rather than to linguistic grouping and hence that resistance to malaria may be at least one reason why alpha thalassaemia is so common in some populations.