Genetic epidemiology of the beta s gene

Baillieres Clin Haematol. 1992 Apr;5(2):331-65. doi: 10.1016/s0950-3536(11)80023-5.


The beta s gene arose at least four times in Africa, with three of these mutations expanding through diverse ethnic groups, but limited to definite geographical areas: Atlantic west Africa for the Senegal haplotype linked beta s; central west Africa for the Benin haplotype; and equatorial, eastern and southern Africa for the Bantu haplotype. The fourth mutation (linked to the Cameroon haplotype) is restricted to a single ethnic group, the Eton of central Cameroon. The Benin haplotype linked beta s gene was spread by gene flow to the Mediterranean (north, south and east) and to the western portions of Saudi Arabia. An independent mutation linked to a fifth haplotype, Arab-India, is found among the tribals of India (independent from their geographical origin) and in the eastern oases of Saudi Arabia. It is also suspected of being associated with the beta s gene found in Afghanistan, Iran, Transcaucasia and central Asia. The selective force involved in the expansion of the gene was most likely P. falciparum malaria, and the time of the gene frequency increase was likely to have been during the expansion of agriculture about 4000 or more years ago in India and about 3000 years ago in Africa. The partial protection against severe and life-threatening malaria is through the limitation of P. falciparum parasitaemia. This is a complex process which involves at least two mechanisms: early intraerythrocyte parasite forms are in a suicidal position through increasing the tendency of HbAS cell to sickle and then be destroyed by the spleen; intraerythrocyte growth is inhibited during deep vascular schizogony. Although there is evidence that P. falciparum (and P. malariae) parasitaemias are limited in HbSS red cells, malaria is a major trigger to haemolytic and infarctive crises in sickle-cell disease, and a common cause of morbidity and mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / epidemiology
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • Gene Frequency
  • Globins / genetics*
  • Hemoglobin, Sickle / genetics*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Malaria / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Saudi Arabia


  • Hemoglobin, Sickle
  • Globins