Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency and hemoglobin E (HbE, β26 Glu-Lys) are two common red cell disorders in Southeast Asia. G6PD deficiency produces hemolytic anemia, which can be triggered by certain drugs or infections. HbE is asymptomatic or is manifested as microcytic, minimally hemolytic anemia. The association between G6PD deficiency and HbE is little understood. This study aimed to investigate G6PD deficiency and HbE in a Kachin ethnic group in the China-Myanmar border area. G6PD enzyme activity was measured using a quantitative G6PD assay, G6PD variants genotyped by the SNaP-shot assay, and an HbE gene mutation identified by an amplification refractory mutation system and subsequently confirmed by using a reverse dot blot hybridization assay from 100 unrelated individuals in the study area. G6PD enzyme activity ranged from 0.4 to 24.7 U/g Hb, and six males had severe G6PD deficiency (<0.12-1.2 U/g Hb), while six males and 12 females had mild G6PD deficiency (>1.2-4.5 U/g Hb). Among the 24 G6PD-deficient subjects, 22 (92%) had the Mahidol 487G>A mutation (12 male hemizygotes, one female homozygote, and nine female heterozygotes), while the G6PD genotypes in two female subjects were unknown. HbE was identified in 39 subjects (20 males and 19 females), including 15 HbEE (seven males and eight females) and 24 HbAE (13 males and 11 females). Twentythree subjects co-inherited both G6PD deficiency and HbE (22 with HbAE and one with HbEE). Whereas mean Hb levels were not significantly different between the HbA and HbE groups, G6PD-deficient males had significantly lower Hb levels than G6PD-normal males (P< 0.05, t-test). However, it is noteworthy that two G6PD-deficient hemizygous males with HbAE were severely anemic with Hb levels below 50 g/L. This study revealed high prevalence of co-inheritance of G6PD deficiency with HbAE in the Kachin ethnicity, and a potential interaction of the G6PD Mahidol 487G>A and HbAE in males leading to severe anemia. The presence of 6% males with severe G6PD deficiency raised a major concern in the use of primaquine for radical cure of vivax malaria.
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