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Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. 2010 Dec;24(6):1055-70. doi: 10.1016/j.hoc.2010.08.008.

HbE/β-thalassemia: basis of marked clinical diversity.

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Pediatrics Medicine and Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Hemoglobin E thalassemia accounts for about one-half of all cases of severe beta thalassemia. There is marked variability in its clinical severity ranging from an asymptomatic to a transfusion-dependent phenotype. The phenotypic variability and inadequate longitudinal data present challenges in determining the optimal management of patients. This article summarizes findings on the natural history of Hemoglobin E thalassemia and some factors responsible for its clinical heterogeneity. Major genetic factors include the type of beta thalassemia mutation, the co-inheritance of alpha thalassemia, and polymorphisms associated with increased synthesis of fetal hemoglobin. Other factors, including response to anemia, and the influence of infection with malaria and other environmental influences, may be important. The remarkable variation and instability of clinical phenotypes in Hemoglobin E thalassemia require individual management plans for each patient, which should be reassessed over time.

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