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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1987;81(2):322-6.

The interaction of alpha thalassaemia with malaria.


A controlled trial of iron dextran prophylaxis in infants 2 months old was carried out on the north coast of New Guinea, where malaria is holoendemic. These infants have a high carrier rate (80%) for alpha + thalassaemia. The neighbouring highland area has a low rate of both malaria and alpha + thalassaemia. The results of clinical and haematological examination of these infants at 6 and 12 months were analysed to determine the relationship between alpha thalassaemia and susceptibility to malaria. Infants were divided according to haemoglobin Bart's levels found at birth into 3 groups corresponding to probable genotypes. Homozygotes had higher slide malarial positivity and spleen rates at 6 and 12 month than the normal or heterozygote groups. Analysis of variance of haemoglobin levels showed that the anaemia associated with malaria was greatest in the normals and least in the homozygotes at 6 months. A possible protective mechanism of alpha thalassaemia is discussed.

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