A common polymorphism in the chitotriosidase gene (CHIT1) exists in which a 24 bp duplication in exon 10 results in aberrant splicing and deletion of 87 nucleotides. In this study, the gene frequency was found to be 0.56 (n=2054) in subjects of Asian ancestry, 0.17 (n=984) in subjects of European ancestry and 0.07 (n=536) in subjects of African ancestry. Notably, the median enzyme activity in wild-type subjects (TT) was much higher in subjects of European ancestry (2.69 mU/ml, n=202 subjects), than subjects of African (2.57 mU/ml, n=230 subjects) (P<0.0001) and Asian ancestry (0.86 mU/ml, n=114 subjects) (P<0.0001). The question of why chitotriosidase deficiency exists at such a high frequency is a challenging one. We postulated that if there was a selective advantage for chitotriosidase deficiency then there would be polymorphisms that would be associated with reduced enzyme activity independent of the 24 bp duplication. We found that the G102S and the A442G polymorphisms found occurring in subjects of all ancestries were not significantly associated with a reduction of enzyme activity. In contrast, the G354R (P<0.0001) and the A442V (P=0.0013) polymorphisms occurring predominantly in subjects of African ancestry were significantly associated with reduced chitotriosidase activity. We also investigated the possibility that chitotriosidase deficiency was associated with tuberculosis or with atopy, including allergic rhinitis, contact dermatitis, food or drug allergies and asthma.