News / Africa

Sickle Cell Disease Cases Are Increasing

Sherry Webb is given an injection for pain relief by a nurse at the Sickle Cell Center in Truman Medical Center, Wednesday, March 7, 2007 in Kansas City, Mo. Pain management is vital in the care of patients suffering from Sickle Cell disease.
Sherry Webb is given an injection for pain relief by a nurse at the Sickle Cell Center in Truman Medical Center, Wednesday, March 7, 2007 in Kansas City, Mo. Pain management is vital in the care of patients suffering from Sickle Cell disease.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Basic health interventions may significantly reduce deaths among young children with sickle cell anemia. The illness causes the body to produce sickle or disc shaped red blood cells making it difficult for them to transport oxygen from the lungs. The number of newborns with the inherited blood disease is increasing, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.


A new study in PLOS Medicine says by 2050 over 400-thousand babies will be born every year with sickle cell anemia. That’s an increase of about 100-thousand per year. Most of those births will occur in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and India. The three countries accounted for 75 percent of sickle cell newborns in 2010.

Dr. Frederic Piel led the research by the University of Oxford, Imperial College and the KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Program in Kenya.

“It’s a genetic disorder and if you inherit one copy of the gene from one of your parents, you don’t have any symptoms and you’re called a carrier or a heterozygote individual. If you inherit two copies from your parents, then you have sickle cell anemia, which is quite severe and lethal in countries where there is no treatment available,” he said.

While most of the sickle cell cases currently are concentrated in a few countries, Piel said there is a growing global burden.

It was initially limited to malaria endemic areas, but because of population movement it’s now common in many other parts of the world, if not all – in particular in the United States or in the United kingdom, where they have put in place newborn screening programs for this disorder. So this is clearly a global burden and it’s going to increase and populations are still moving from countries where the prevalence of this disorder is high to countries where the prevalence is lower because of the globalization context.”

He said that it’s very difficult for developing countries to deal with this health issue on their own. However, many of those countries have been working to the reduce mortality rate for children under age five. This includes better pre and post natal care and improved nutrition. It’s one of the Millennium Development Goals and gives sickle cell newborns a better chance of survival.

“In terms of sickle cell anemia it means that in newborns, who would previously have died at the early stage of their life undiagnosed, can now be diagnosed because they are surviving that five year age limit. And then they can start presenting symptoms or kind of clinical complications associated with sickle cell anemia, for which simple interventions can reduce the long-term burden,” he said.

Some of the simple interventions after diagnosis, he said, include penicillin prophylaxis and basic vaccinations, which can prevent infections and long term complications. Better access to basic health care services is also necessary.

Couples planning to have children can also be screened for the disease using a simple blood test.

“The first step is kind of screening parents and then trying to provide them with genetic counseling and define which pregnancies are at risk and which ones aren’t. And in developing countries there are some new technologies, which can help [in] selecting which fetuses or which eggs might be unaffected. But this is really costly and still kind of new technology. So I don’t this is a solution at the moment for low and middle income countries. I think education and screening are key steps in the short term to try to reduce this burden,” said Piel.

The U.S. Institutes of Health describe sickle cells at stiff and sticky, blocking blood flow to limbs and organs. The result can be acute or chronic pain, damage to organs and an increased risk of infection, among other things.

The NIH reports treatments – including fluids, drugs and oxygen therapy -- can relieve symptoms and complications and reduce pain. A cure may be possible in a small number of cases through blood and bone marrow stem cell transplants. However, this is not something readily available or affordable in developing countries.

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid