Duffy Blood Types and Vivax Malaria in Ethiopia

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  • Bureau of Laboratories, Center for Disease Control, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and and Human Services, Naval Medical Research Institute, Atlanta, Georgia 30333

We investigated an hypothesis relating the Duffy-negative blood type with insusceptibility to vivax malaria—and previously associated only with people of West African ancestry—in three population samples of eastern African stock. The samples included Nilotic and Hamitic-Semitic residents of a malarious locale in Ethiopia and Hamito-Semites in Addis Ababa where malaria is not endemic. Fresh red blood cells from 191 subjects were tested with Duffy antisera, anti-Fya and anti-Fyb. Duffy-positive rates in the malarious community were 8% for the Nilotes and 70% for the Hamito-Semites; the Hamito-Semites in Addis Ababa were 98% Duffy-positive. The relative prevalences of Plasmodium vivax in the two study groups at risk to malaria were 2.4% for the Nilotes and 27.3% for the Hamito-Semites, producing a ratio similar to the ratio of Duffy-positives in the two samples. We interpret the data as supportive of the Duffy-vivax hypothesis with reference to a part of eastern Africa, and we suggest that the Duffy-negative genotype may represent the original, rather than the mutant, condition in tropical Africa.