Over the past decade, we have characterized at the DNA level a total of 116 hemoglobin H (Hb H) disease patients living in Canada. The majority of patients were of southeast Asian descent (Chinese, Filipino, Laotian, Vietnamese), with a small number being of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or East Indian background. A total of 15 distinct genotypes were detected, all but one being compound heterozygotes for a two-gene cis deletion and a single-gene deletion (-alpha/-) or a non-deletion mutation of the alpha2-globin gene (alpha(T) alpha/-). Seven different two-gene cis deletions were encountered, along with nine single-gene deletions and point mutations. The wide range of mutations associated with Hb H disease in Canada is a reflection of the population heterogeneity. The diagnosis of Hb H disease at the molecular level is important with respect to genetic counseling and the identification of families at risk for having pregnancies affected with Hb Bart's hydrops fetalis syndrome and/or Hb H disease. Six of the Hb H disease patients in our cohort had spouses who carried single-gene deletions, making these couples at risk for having children with Hb H disease. More important, seven patients had partners who carried two-gene cis deletions. These couples are at reproductive risk for both Hb Bart's hydrops fetalis syndrome and Hb H disease.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.