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Prevalence and distribution of G6PD deficiency: implication for the use of primaquine in malaria treatment in Ethiopia



G6PD enzyme deficiency is a common enzymatic X-linked disorder. Deficiency of the G6PD enzyme can cause free radical-mediated oxidative damage to red blood cells, leading to premature haemolysis. Treatment of Plasmodium vivax malaria with primaquine poses a potential risk of mild to severe acute haemolytic anaemia in G6PD deficient people. In this study, the prevalence and distribution of G6PD mutations were investigated across broad areas of Ethiopia, and tested the association between G6PD genotype and phenotype with the goal to provide additional information relevant to the use of primaquine in malaria treatment.


This study examined G6PD mutations in exons 3-11 for 344 febrile patient samples collected from seven sites across Ethiopia. In addition, the G6PD enzyme level of 400 febrile patient samples from Southwestern Ethiopia was determined by the CareStart™ biosensor. The association between G6PD phenotype and genotype was examined by Fisher exact test on a subset of 184 samples.


Mutations were observed at three positions of the G6PD gene. The most common G6PD mutation across all sites was A376G, which was detected in 21 of 344 (6.1%) febrile patients. Thirteen of them were homozygous and eight were heterozygous for this mutation. The G267+119C/T mutation was found in 4 (1.2%) individuals in South Ethiopia, but absent in other sites. The G1116A mutation was also found in 4 (1.2%) individuals from East and South Ethiopia. For the 400 samples in the south, 17 (4.25%) were shown to be G6PD-deficient. G6PD enzyme level was not significantly different by age or gender. Among a subset of 202 febrile patients who were diagnosed with malaria, 11 (5.45%) were G6PD-deficient. These 11 infected samples were diagnosed with Plasmodium vivax by microscopy. Parasitaemia was not significantly different between the G6PD-deficient and G6PD-normal infections.


The prevalence of G6PD deficiency is modest among febrile patients in Ethiopia. G6PD deficiency testing is thus recommended before administrating primaquine for radical cure of P. vivax infected patients. The present study did not indicate a significant association between G6PD gene mutations and enzyme levels.

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