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The Duffy-null genotype and risk of infection

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Many medical treatments, from oncology to psychiatry, can lower white blood cell counts and thus access to these treatments can be restricted to individuals with normal levels of white blood cells, principally in order to minimize risk of serious infection. This adversely affects individuals of African or Middle Eastern ancestries who have on average a reduced number of circulating white blood cells, because of the Duffy-null (CC) genotype at rs2814778 in the ACKR1 gene. Here, we investigate whether the Duffy-null genotype is associated with the risk of infection using the UK Biobank sample and the iPSYCH Danish case-cohort study, two population-based samples from different countries and age ranges. We found that a high proportion of those with the Duffy-null genotype (21%) had a neutrophil count below the threshold often used as a cut-off for access to relevant treatments, compared with 1% of those with the TC/TT genotype. In addition we found that despite its strong association with lower average neutrophil counts, the Duffy-null genotype was not associated with an increased risk of infection, viral or bacterial. These results have widespread implications for the clinical treatment of individuals of African ancestry and indicate that neutrophil thresholds to access treatments could be lowered in individuals with the Duffy-null genotype without an increased risk of infection.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Volume29
Issue number20
Pages (from-to)3341-3349
Number of pages9
ISSN0964-6906
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2020

ID: 60906058