Human mannose-binding lectin (MBL) plays an important role in innate immunity. MBL deficiency is associated with mutations in the promoter region and in exon 1 of the MBL2 gene. Such deficiency has been correlated with elevated incidence of infections in infancy and in immunocompromised adults. We determined the distribution profile of the MBL2 gene variants in the general population of Benin (West Africa) and in a vulnerable subset of children with sickle cell disease (SCD) (SS homozygotes). Five hundred forty-two healthy individuals (274 newborns, 268 adults) and 128 patients with SCD (35 newborns, 93 children) were screened for the common variant alleles in the MBL2 secretor haplotype region (exon 1 and promoter). The p.G57E variant allele was the most frequent allele compared to p.G54D (27.5% vs. 1.6%, respectively). The p.R52C allele was not found in this population. There was no difference in allele or genotype frequencies between healthy newborns and newborns with SCD. Alleles associated with MBL deficiency were more frequent in adults than in newborns (69.8% vs. 57.3%, respectively; p = 0.002). This enrichment was exclusively due to an elevated proportion of heterozygotes for the p.G57E allele (47.0% vs. 35.3%, respectively; p = 0.004), supporting a potential selective advantage of this genotype. Our results, compared to those reported in other African countries, support the implication of the MBL2 gene in various major infections in Africa, such as meningitis and tuberculosis in HIV-positive patients.
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Vol. 79 • No. 6