Interferon-gamma polymorphisms and risk of iron deficiency and anaemia in Gambian children

Abuga KM, Rockett KA, Muriuki JM, Koch O, Nairz M, Sirugo G, Bejon P, Kwiatkowski DP, Prentice AM, Atkinson SH
Wellcome Open Res. 2020;5

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Background: Anaemia is a major public health concern especially in African children living in malaria-endemic regions. Interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) is elevated during malaria infection and is thought to influence erythropoiesis and iron status. Genetic variants in the IFN-gamma gene (IFNG) are associated with increased IFN-gamma production. We investigated putative functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and haplotypes of IFNG in relation to nutritional iron status and anaemia in Gambian children over a malaria season. Methods: We used previously available data from Gambian family trios to determine informative SNPs and then used the Agena Bioscience MassArray platform to type five SNPs from the IFNG gene in a cohort of 780 Gambian children aged 2-6 years. We also measured haemoglobin and biomarkers of iron status and inflammation at the start and end of a malaria season. Results: We identified five IFNG haplotype-tagging SNPs ( IFNG-1616 [rs2069705], IFNG+874 [rs2430561], IFNG+2200 [rs1861493], IFNG+3234 [rs2069718] and IFNG+5612 [rs2069728]). The IFNG+2200C [rs1861493] allele was associated with reduced haemoglobin concentrations (adjusted beta -0.44 [95% CI -0.75, -0.12]; Bonferroni adjusted P = 0.03) and a trend towards iron deficiency compared to wild-type at the end of the malaria season in multivariable models adjusted for potential confounders. A haplotype uniquely identified by IFNG+2200C was similarly associated with reduced haemoglobin levels and trends towards iron deficiency, anaemia and iron deficiency anaemia at the end of the malaria season in models adjusted for age, sex, village, inflammation and malaria parasitaemia. Conclusion: We found limited statistical evidence linking IFNG polymorphisms with a risk of developing iron deficiency and anaemia in Gambian children. More definitive studies are needed to investigate the effects of genetically influenced IFN-gamma levels on the risk of iron deficiency and anaemia in children living in malaria-endemic areas.