Alpha-thalassemia of Southeast Asian deletion (-- SEA/) is very common in Southeast Asia. Homozygosity of this genotype is the major cause of Hb Bart's hydrops fetalis in Taiwan. With polymerase chain reaction using three oligonucleotide primers bridging the common deletion breakpoint, a DNA fragment of 194 basepairs (bp) was amplified in chromosomes with the-- SEA determinant and a DNA fragment of 287 bp was amplified in chromosomes without this deletion. In our pilot study including 8 normal subjects, 20 obligate carriers, and 11 homozygotes of the deletion, all the genotypes were determined and then confirmed by Southern blotting and DNA hybridization with φζ globin gene probe. For prenatal diagnosis, 55 at-risk pregnancies were collected. Chorionic villus sampling was done in 51 cases and early amniocentesis was done in 4 cases. Fourteen cases (25.5%) were diagnosed as normal, 25 (45.5%) as heterozygotes, and 16 (29%) as homozygotes of -- SEA. All of the diagnoses were also confirmed as aforementioned. With polymerase chain reaction, the determination of the -- SEA deletion is straightforward and is much quicker and easier than with conventional Southern blotting and DNA hybridization. In areas with a high prevalence of -- SEA deletion, this method provides a rapid tool for carrier detection and prenatal diagnosis.
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