Previous studies have reported a high incidence of hemoglobin E (HbE) in Northeast Indian populations. In the present study 10 endogamous populations of Assam belonging to two racial groups, Caucasoid and Mongoloid, were examined. The frequency of HbE gene (Hb βE) in the Caucasoid caste populations is around 0.1, whereas the gene is highly prevalent in the Mongoloid populations, frequencies ranging between 0.2 and 0.6. Predominance of Hb βE in the Tibeto-Burman speakers is contrary to observations made in Southeast Asia, where an association between Austro-Asiatic speakers and high prevalence of HbE exist. The highest occurrence of the gene in this area, which is on the far end of the proposed centre of distribution in Northern Kampuchea and Northeast Thailand, is also a deviation from the expected pattern of gene distribution. It is speculated that Hb βE in the Tibeto-Burman populations of Assam arose by an independent mutation which contributed to the high frequencies of Hb βE in the Northeast Indian populations.

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