Research

Alpha-thalassaemia trait as a cause of unexplained microcytosis in a South African population

Sakina Bibi Loonat, Nitien Hira Naran, Swee Lay Thein, Nazeer Ahmed Alli

Abstract


Background. Red cell microcytosis is a common abnormality detected in a full blood count, which often prompts clinicians to investigate further for a cause. In the absence of iron deficiency and anaemia of chronic disease, the differential diagnosis includes β-thalassaemia trait and α-thalassaemia trait.

Methods. We investigated the contribution of α-thalassaemia trait in South African subjects with unexplained microcytosis. Iron studies, haemoglobin subfractionation and multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis for α-globin gene deletions were performed on 97 controls and 86 patients.

Results. After excluding iron deficiency, anaemia of chronic disease and β-thalassaemia trait, 78.0% of subjects with unexplained microcytosis were confirmed on PCR analysis to have α-thalassaemia trait.

Conclusion. Alpha-thalassaemia trait accounts for the majority of unexplained microcytosis. 




Authors' affiliations

Sakina Bibi Loonat, Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology, School of Pathology, University of the Witwatersrand and National Health Laboratory Service, Johannesburg, South Africa

Nitien Hira Naran, Department of Chemical Pathology, School of Pathology, University of the Witwatersrand and National Health Laboratory Service, Johannesburg, South Africa

Swee Lay Thein, Department of Molecular Haematology, King’s College London, UK

Nazeer Ahmed Alli, Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology, School of Pathology, University of the Witwatersrand and National Health Laboratory Service, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Keywords

Unexplained microcytosis; Alpha-thalassaemia, PCR, Hb sub-fractionation

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(3):276-279. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i3.10005

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-09-17
Date published: 2016-02-22

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