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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Meta-analysis of haplotype-association studies: comparison of methods and empirical evaluation of the literature

Pantelis G Bagos

Author Affiliations

Department of Computer Science and Biomedical Informatics, University of Central Greece, Papasiopoulou 2-4, Lamia 35100, Greece

BMC Genetics 2011, 12:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-12-8

Published: 19 January 2011



Meta-analysis is a popular methodology in several fields of medical research, including genetic association studies. However, the methods used for meta-analysis of association studies that report haplotypes have not been studied in detail. In this work, methods for performing meta-analysis of haplotype association studies are summarized, compared and presented in a unified framework along with an empirical evaluation of the literature.


We present multivariate methods that use summary-based data as well as methods that use binary and count data in a generalized linear mixed model framework (logistic regression, multinomial regression and Poisson regression). The methods presented here avoid the inflation of the type I error rate that could be the result of the traditional approach of comparing a haplotype against the remaining ones, whereas, they can be fitted using standard software. Moreover, formal global tests are presented for assessing the statistical significance of the overall association. Although the methods presented here assume that the haplotypes are directly observed, they can be easily extended to allow for such an uncertainty by weighting the haplotypes by their probability.


An empirical evaluation of the published literature and a comparison against the meta-analyses that use single nucleotide polymorphisms, suggests that the studies reporting meta-analysis of haplotypes contain approximately half of the included studies and produce significant results twice more often. We show that this excess of statistically significant results, stems from the sub-optimal method of analysis used and, in approximately half of the cases, the statistical significance is refuted if the data are properly re-analyzed. Illustrative examples of code are given in Stata and it is anticipated that the methods developed in this work will be widely applied in the meta-analysis of haplotype association studies.