A Reliable Screening Test to Identify Adult Carriers of the (--SEA) alpha0-Thalassemia Deletion
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Homozygous (--SEA) alpha zero-thalassemia deletion, the cause of up to 80% of fetal hydrops in Southeast Asia, is encountered in many other countries. Heterozygous carrier rates of the deletion in Southeast Asian populations range from 4% to 14%. The laboratory screening for adult carriers of (--SEA) and other alpha zero-thalassemia deletions currently rests primarily with microscopic detection of hemoglobin H inclusion bodies within erythrocytes (Hb H screen). This test is laborious and observer dependent and has poor sensitivity. We assessed a colorimetric enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect embryonic zeta-globin chains in adult hemolysates as an alternative to detect (--SEA) alpha zero-thalassemia deletion carriers. Blood samples from 221 adults with a mean corpuscular volume less than 80 micron 3 (80 fL) were studied prospectively by currently accepted hemoglobin screening tests and ELISA. Suspected cases of alpha-thalassemia were confirmed by DNA-based diagnostics. ELISA was highly sensitive (1.0) and specific (0.94) for the detection of adult carriers of (--SEA) alpha zero-thalassemia deletion. The hemoglobin H screen had a sensitivity of 0.47 and specificity of 0.99. The zeta-globin ELISA proved simple to perform, rapid, and applicable to high volume or population-based screening programs.
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