Beta-thalassaemia intermedia: is it possible consistently to predict phenotype from genotype?

Br J Haematol. 1998 Jan;100(1):70-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2141.1998.00519.x.


Eighty-seven patients with beta thalassaemia of intermediate severity were investigated in our Unit to determine whether it is possible to consistently predict phenotypic severity from genotypic factors. The subjects were from the following ethnic backgrounds: Asian Indian (35.1%), Middle Eastern (24.3%), Mediterranean (21.6%), Northern European (14.9%) and South-East Asian/Chinese (4.1%). There was a wide spectrum of phenotypic severity; 49 had mild disease, 22 moderate and 16 severe disease. 22/87 patients had inherited only a single copy of a beta-thalassaemia allele, of whom 11 had also co-inherited triplicated alpha genes (alpha alpha alpha/alpha alpha or alpha alpha alpha/alpha alpha alpha) and seven had dominantly inherited beta thalassaemia. In four of the heterozygotes no explanation was found for the thalassaemia-intermedia phenotype. 65/87 patients were homozygous or compound heterozygous for 26 mutations (40 genotypes) which ranged from very mild beta+ to beta0 thalassaemia alleles. All patients with two mild or very mild beta+ thalassaemia alleles had mild to moderate disease. Although concurrent inheritance of extra alpha genes with heterozygous beta thalassaemia results in thalassaemia intermedia, the disease is mild. Co-inheritance of alpha thalassaemia as a modulating factor was not evident in this cohort of patients. Presence of the in-cis Xmn I-Ggamma site was a modulating factor but insufficient to explain the high fetal haemoglobin levels encountered. In conclusion, apart from the two categories of triplicated alpha genes with heterozygous beta thalassaemia and inheritance of mild beta+ thalassaemia alleles, it was not possible to consistently predict phenotype from alpha and beta genotypes alone, due to the influence of modulating factors, some implicated (such as inheritance of HPFH determinants) and others as yet unidentified.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genotype
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Pedigree
  • Phenotype
  • beta-Thalassemia / genetics*