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Background: ABO blood group antigens are formed by terminal glycosylation of glycoproteins and glycolipid chains present on cell surfaces. Glycosylation modulates all kinds of cell-to-cell interactions and this may be relevant in malaria pathophysiology, in which adhesion has been increasingly implicated in disease severity. This study was done to determine the association between ABO phenotypes and the severity of P. falciparum malaria in children. Methods: One hundred and twenty one children were assessed at the Department of Child Health, KBTH from May to August 2008. ABO blood groups were determined by agglutination. The haemoglobin measurement was done with the haematology analyzer, Sysmex KX-21N. Malaria parasites were enumerated and the presence of malaria pigment noted. Identification of P. falciparum was done. Statistical tests used were odds ratio and chi square at a significance level of p < 0.05. Results: 24.3% of the 121 children had severe falciparum malaria, and their mean haemoglobin was 4.49 g/dl (SD ±1.69). No significant association was found between the ABO phenotypes and malaria infection (p > 0.05). Blood group A was associated with more severe malaria as compared to the blood group O individuals (Odds ratio = 0.79, p > 0.05); blood group AB (Odds ratio = 0.14, p > 0.05) and also there was a significant difference in severity of malaria between blood group O and blood group B (Odds ratio = 1.28, p > 0.05). Conclusion: Non-O blood group children are more prone to severe malaria caused by P. falciparum malaria than the group O, despite the lack of significant association between ABO blood groups and falciparum malaria.
Key words: ABO blood groups, malaria, severity, Plasmodium falciparum