Journal of Community Genetics

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 147–167 | Cite as

Epidemiological profile of common haemoglobinopathies in Arab countries

  • Hanan A. HamamyEmail author
  • Nasir A. S. Al-Allawi


Haemoglobinopathies including the thalassemias and sickle cell disease are known to be prevalent inherited disorders in most Arab countries with varying prevalence rates and molecular characterisation. β-thalassemia is encountered in polymorphic frequencies in almost all Arab countries with carrier rates of 1–11 % and a varying number of mutations. The most widespread mutation in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia and Algeria is the IVS-I-110 (G>A). In the Eastern Arabian Peninsula, the Asian Indian mutations (IVS-I-5 (G>C), codons 8/9 (+G) and IVS-I (−25 bp del)) are more common. The α-thalassemias are encountered in the majority of Arab countries in frequencies ranging from 1 to 58 % with the highest frequencies reported from Gulf countries. The (−α3.7) mutation is the most frequent followed by the non-deletional α2 polyadenylation signal mutation (AATAAA>AATAAG) and the α2 IVS1 5-bp deletion. The rates of sickle cell trait in Arab countries range from 0.3 to 30 %, with the Benin, the Arab-Indian and the Bantu haplotypes constituting the bulk of the haplotypes, leading to two major phenotypes; a mild one associated with the Arab-Indian and a severe one with the Benin and Bantu haplotypes. Public health approaches targeting prevention of haemoglobinopathies in Arab countries include newborn screening for sickle cell disease, and premarital screening for carriers of β-thalassemia and sickle cell disease. These services are still patchy and inadequate in many Arab countries recommending the upgrade of these services with strengthening of the education and training of health care providers and raising public awareness on the feasibility of prevention and care for haemoglobinopathies.


Arab Haemoglobinopathies Newborn screening Premarital screening Thalassemia Sickle cell trait Sickle cell disease 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Genetic Medicine and DevelopmentUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Haematology, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medical Sciences School of MedicineUniversity of DuhokDuhokIraq

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