Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Thalassemia, Alpha

Inherited autosomal codominant abnormality of blood, caused by an imbalance in the production of the subunits of hemoglobin. Symptoms range from mild to lethal anemia that results in stillbirth (hydrops fetalis), heart failure, and serous fluid accumulation. The cause of the alpha forms is inactivation of up to four loci (in various combinations) that produce the alpha globin chains. Some variants confer resistance to malaria in the heterozygous state in adults, although even heterozygotes have mild anemia (Mediterranean anemia). Highest frequencies of the alpha form are found in Persia, but it is also found in the Mediterranean region, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, New Guinea, and Japan.

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