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The alpha globin genotypes of 55 beta thalassaemia heterozygotes have been determined by restriction endonuclease analysis to identify those with interacting alpha thalassaemia genes. A comparison of the haematological and haemoglobin synthesis findings of individuals with normal alpha genotypes (alpha alpha/alpha alpha) with those with one (-alpha/alpha alpha) or two (-alpha/-alpha) alpha genes deleted shows that the latter two groups have more balanced globin chain synthesis ratios, higher haemoglobin levels, and larger, better haemoglobinized red cells. This suggests that the degree of globin chain imbalance is a significant factor in determining the red cell characteristics in heterozygous beta thalassaemia. Screening programmes for thalassaemia, based on the detection of low MCVs, could miss cases of the interaction of alpha and beta thalassaemia.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Br J Haematol

Volume

52

Pages

465 - 73