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MK Thong, TL Soo
Correspondence: Dr Thong Meow Keong, firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction Beta-thalassaemia major is one of the commonest genetic disorders in South East Asia. The strategy for the community control of beta-thalassaemia major requires the characterisation of the spectrum of beta-globin gene mutations in any multi-ethnic population. There is only a single report of mutation analyses of the beta-globin gene in an isolated Kadazandusun community in Kota Belud, Sabah, Malaysia, which showed the presence of a common 45 kb deletion.
Methods To confirm the observation that this large deletion is the commonest beta-globin gene mutation among the Kadazandusun and other indigenous populations in Sabah, Malaysia, we performed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of the beta-globin gene in ten children with beta-thalassaemia major attending the Thalassaemia Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the major paediatric referral centre in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Results The 45 kb deletion was confirmed to be the commonest mutation found in the Kadazandusun, Bajau and Murut populations, whereby it was detected in 19 out of the 20 (95 percent) alleles analysed. The other mutation was due to an IVS-1 position 1 G > T mutation.
Conclusion This finding confirmed the deletion in the homozygous state was associated with a severe phenotype. The reason for the predominance of this mutation in Kota Kinabalu is most likely to be due to founder effects and possibly intermarriages between the various ethnic groups. Prenatal diagnosis using PCR for this common mutation is feasible in this community. Medical workers and scientists at molecular diagnostic centres serving large South East Asian populations should incorporate a diagnostic strategy for this deletion in the appropriate population. Future studies on these indigenous ethnic groups in other areas and other groups in Sabah are required.
Keywords: beta-thalassaemia, gene deletion, genetic disorder, mutation, thalassaemia
Singapore Med J 2005; 46(7): 340-343