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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - PloS One
Title Mucosal Blood Group Antigen Expression Profiles and HIV Infections: A Study among Female Sex Workers in Kenya
Volume 10
Issue 7
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers e0133049
URL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0133049

The ABO blood group antigens are carbohydrate moieties expressed on human red blood cells however; these antigens can also be expressed on some other cells particularly the surface of epithelial cells and may be found in mucosal secretions. In many human populations 80% secrete ABO antigens (termed ‘secretors’) while 20% do not (termed ‘non-secretors’). Furthermore, there are disease conditions that are associated with secretor status.


To investigate correlations between secretor status and HIV infection among female sex workers in Nairobi, Kenya.


This cross-sectional study recruited 280 female sex workers aged 18–65 years from the Pumwani Majengo cohort, Kenya. Blood typing was determined by serological techniques using monoclonal antibodies to the ABO blood group antigens. Secretor phenotyping was determined using anti-H specific lectins specific to salivary, vaginal and cervical blood group H antigen using the agglutination inhibition technique and correlated to individual HIV sero-status. Participants were additionally screened for Bacterial vaginosis, Neisseria gonorrhoea and Trichomonas vaginalis.


Out of the 280 participants, 212 (75.7%) were secretors and 68 (24.3%) were non-secretors. The incidence of all infections: HIV, Bacterial vaginosis, Neisseria gonorrhoea and Trichomonas vaginalis was higher among secretors compared to non-secretors. However, this difference was only statistically significant for HIV infection incidence rates: HIV infected secretors (83.7%) versus HIV un-infected secretors (71.8%) (p = 0.029) Based on ABO phenotype stratification, the incidence of HIV infection was higher among blood group A secretors (26/52 = 50%), in comparison to B (12/39 = 33.3%: p = 0.066), AB (3/9 = 33.3%: p = 0.355), and O secretors (36/112 = 32.1%: p = 0.028).


This is the first report to document the variable expression of the ABH blood group antigens profiling secretor and non-secretor phenotypes in the female genital tract among a high-risk population in a Kenyan population. These findings suggest the non-secretor phenotype may confer a certain degree of protection against HIV infection.

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