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Haptoglobin (Hp) scavenges free hemoglobin following malaria-induced hemolysis. Few studies have investigated the relationship between the common Hp variants and the risk of severe malaria, and their results are inconclusive. We conducted a case-control study of 996 children with severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria and 1220 community controls and genotyped for Hp, hemoglobin (Hb) S heterozygotes, and α(+)thalassemia. Hb S heterozygotes and α(+)thalassemia homozygotes were protected from severe malaria (odds ratio [OR], 0.12; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.07-0.18 and OR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.53-0.91, respectively). The risk of severe malaria also varied by Hp genotype: Hp2-1 was associated with the greatest protection against severe malaria and Hp2-2 with the greatest risk. Meta-analysis of the current and published studies suggests that Hp2-2 is associated with increased risk of severe malaria compared with Hp2-1. We found a significant interaction between Hp genotype and α(+)thalassemia in predicting risk of severe malaria: Hp2-1 in combination with heterozygous or homozygous α(+)thalassemia was associated with protection from severe malaria (OR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.54-0.99 and OR, 0.48; 95% CI, 0.32-0.73, respectively), but α(+)thalassemia in combination with Hp2-2 was not protective. This epistatic interaction together with varying frequencies of α(+)thalassemia across Africa may explain the inconsistent relationship between Hp genotype and malaria reported in previous studies.

Original publication

DOI

10.1182/blood-2013-10-533489

Type

Journal article

Journal

Blood

Publication Date

27/03/2014

Volume

123

Pages

2008 - 2016

Keywords

Case-Control Studies, Child, Child, Preschool, Epistasis, Genetic, Female, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Genotype, Haptoglobins, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Kenya, Malaria, Falciparum, Male, Meta-Analysis as Topic, Risk Factors, Severity of Illness Index, alpha-Thalassemia