A total of nearly 1,000 persons belonging to a number of caste, religious and tribal groupings in Kerala and the Nilgiri Hills of South India have been tested for genetic variation in 4 blood group, 5 serum protein and 17 enzyme systems as well as haemoglobin. The distribution of blood groups, serum protein and enzyme groups is similar to that reported for other South Indian populations. Of particular interest is the presence of LDH ‘Calcutta-1 variants in three of the Hindu and Muslim communities, as well as in two of the tribal populations. At locus 1 of phosphoglucomutase a new allele of the ‘slow’ variety was detected in more than 10% of the Malayarayan, in Kerala, but no examples of this variant were found in neighbouring populations. Abnormal haemoglobins were detected in several populations, HbS being present in more than 20% of the Irula and Kurumba in the Nilgiri Hills. In the Kerala populations there were 4 examples of Hb AD and 1 of Hb AE. Genetic distance estimates using the gene frequency data indicate that the closest groups are the Nayar and Izhava and the Brahmin and Nayar. The tribal populations are approximately twice as far from the Nayar as they are from the Izhava. The Todas of the Nilgiri Hills are somewhat closer to the Brahmin of Kerala than they are to the other tribal populations.

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