Population specific genetic heterogeneity of familial hypercholesterolemia in South Africa

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Purpose of review

To describe the prevalence and population-specific genetic heterogeneity of familial hypercholesterolemia in South Africa.

Recent findings

This review highlights the paucity of data on familial hypercholesterolemia in South Africa, and the urgent need to uncover the mutation profiles in lipid-associated genes, causing an increase in LDL-cholesterol in the different ethnic groups. Case reports and small studies have shown that familial hypercholesterolemia, although apparently uncommon, is present in black Africans.


Local founder effects have led to an increased prevalence of familial hypercholesterolemia in several South African populations: Afrikaner founder mutations (c.681 C>G, c.1285 G>A, c.523 G>A), Ashkenazi founder mutation (c.654_656del) and possible Indian founder mutation (c.2054 C>T). Preliminary data in black Africans with elevated LDL-cholesterol identified a possible common mutation, c.137_142del. The South African multiethnic society and well described founder effects emphasize the need for differential approaches to diagnosis and management of familial hypercholesterolemia. Studies involving larger cohorts and inclusive of different ethnicities are paramount to establishing an accurate prevalence of familial hypercholesterolemia in black Africans, not only in South Africa but in the Sub-Saharan African region. It is clear that the estimated world prevalence of one in 250 cannot be generally applied across African populations.

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