The genetic blood disorder thalassemia is most prevalent among persons of Greek, Asian, Middle Eastern and African descent, according to Mayo Clinic. Persons of Southeast Asian, Chinese, Romanian and Bulgarian ancestry are also more prone to develop the disease than other demographic groups, reports the Northern California Comprehensive Thalassemia Center.
Thalassemia is a genetic mutation of the DNA that builds alpha and beta hemoglobin chains within red blood cells. There are four types of alpha thalassemia and two types of beta thalassemia. A person who inherits only one mutated gene may show no symptoms of thalassemia but can still pass the mutation to his children. A person who inherits two mutated alpha hemoglobin genes is said to have the thalassemia trait. Three mutated alpha hemoglobin genes causes a condition called hemoglobin H disease. Babies who inherit four alpha hemoglobin mutations generally do not survive past infancy, according to Mayo Clinic.