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[Gr. thalassa, sea + -emia]
Any of a group of hereditary anemias occurring in populations bordering the Mediterranean Sea and in Southeast Asia. Anemia is produced by either a defective production rate of the alpha or beta hemoglobin polypeptide chain or a decreased synthesis of the beta chain. Heterozygotes are usually asymptomatic. The severity in homozygotes varies according to the complexity of the inheritance pattern, but thalassemia may be fatal.
SEE: sickle cell anemia