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Reduced prevalence of Plasmodium falciparum infection and of concomitant anaemia in pregnant women with heterozygous G6PD deficiency

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Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency confers protection against malaria in children, yet its role in malaria in pregnancy is unknown. In a cross-sectional study among 529 pregnant Ghanaian women, Plasmodium falciparum infection, anaemia and G6PD genotypes were assessed. Of these, 30.4% were heterozygous and 2.6% were homozygous for G6PD deficiency. The prevalence of P. falciparum infection decreased from 66% in G6PD-normal women to 58% in heterozygotes, and to 50% in individuals with homozygous G6PD deficiency ( , P = 0.04). Multivariate analysis revealed that in multigravid women but not in primigravidae, heterozygous G6PD deficiency was associated with a reduced risk of P. falciparum infection (Odds ratio (OR), 0.6; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), [0.4–0.9]). This protection against infection was limited to the third trimenon of pregnancy. In addition, heterozygous G6PD deficiency was associated with a reduced risk of anaemia among infected multigravidae (OR, 0.5 [0.3–1.0]). Pregnancy is a period of high vulnerability to malaria. The results of this study provide evidence for protection against malaria in pregnancy caused by heterozygous G6PD deficiency. This advantage, even if confined to multigravid women, may contribute to the selection of G6PD variants in malaria-endemic regions.
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Keywords: G6PD deficiency; Plasmodium falciparum; malaria; pregnancy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institut für Tropenmedizin Berlin, Charité, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany 2: Presbyterian Mission Hospital, Agogo, Ghana 3: Division of Infectious Diseases, Tropical Medicine and AIDS, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: February 1, 2003

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