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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More