Alpha-Thalassemia Carrier due to -α3.7 Deletion: Not So Silent

Acta Haematol. 2020;143(5):432-437. doi: 10.1159/000503023. Epub 2020 Jan 14.


Background/objective: Alpha-thalassemia is one of the most prevalent genetic diseases, with the -α3.7 deletion being the most common mutation. Molecular studies have suggested mechanisms to explain the mild phenotype of "silent carrier" heterozygotes. However, the correlation between the clinical laboratory picture and the -α3.7 heterozygous state remains unclear, thus we chose to investigate.

Methods: We analyzed the medical files of 192 children evaluated for microcytosis at our tertiary center between 2007 and 2017 and diagnosed as heterozygotes for the -α3.7 deletion. Additional α-thalassemia mutations, iron deficiency anemia, and β-thalassemia were ruled out. Laboratory parameters were compared to age- and sex-matched reference values.

Results: The -α3.7 carriers had significantly lower Hb and mean corpuscular volume (MCV) than the reference population, and significantly higher red blood cell counts across all age groups. The greatest reduction in Hb level appeared among male adolescents, while MCV was consistently 2 SDs lower than normal in most patients older than 2 years.

Conclusion: Heterozygosity for the -α3.7 deletion was associated with clinically significant microcytosis and mild anemia in our pediatric population. In the absence of iron deficiency and β-thalassemia, this finding provides a diagnosis for mild microcytic anemia, making additional investigations of microcytosis unnecessary.

Keywords: Anemia; Hemoglobin; Pediatrics; α-Thalassemia; α3.7 deletion.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Erythrocyte Indices
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • alpha-Thalassemia*
  • beta-Thalassemia*