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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid