The Duffy blood group plays a key role in Plasmodium knowlesi and Plasmodium vivax invasion into human erythrocytes. The geographical distribution of the Duffy alleles differs between regions with the FY*A allele having high frequencies in many Asian populations, the FY*B allele is found predominately in European populations and the FY*Bes allele found predominantly in African regions. A previous study in Peninsular Malaysia indicated high homogeneity of the dominant FY*A/FY*A genotype. However, the distribution of the Duffy genotypes in Malaysian Borneo is currently unknown. In the present study, the distribution of Duffy blood group genotypes and allelic frequencies among P. knowlesi infected patients as well as healthy individuals in Malaysian Borneo were determined. A total of 79 P. knowlesi patient blood samples and 76 healthy donor samples were genotyped using allele specific polymerase chain reaction (ASP-PCR). Subsequently a P. knowlesi invasion assay was carried out on FY*AB/ FY*A and FY*A/ FY*A Duffy genotype blood to investigate if either genotype conferred increased susceptibility to P. knowlesi invasion. Our results show almost equal distribution between the homozygous FY*A/FY*A and heterozygous FY*A/FY*B genotypes. This is in stark contrast to the Duffy distribution in Peninsular Malaysia and the surrounding Southeast Asian region which is dominantly FY*A/FY*A. The mean percent invasion of FY*A/FY*A and FY*A/FY*B blood was not significantly different indicating that neither blood group confers increased susceptibility to P. knowlesi invasion.
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