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Science & Technology

Bad blood

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Aug 31, 2013 | From the print edition

By 2050, half a million kids would be born with sickle cell anaemia

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SICKLE Cell Anaemia (SCA) is a hereditary blood disorder, characterised by abnormal, rigid, sickle-shaped red blood cells. It occurs due to mutation in the haemoglobin gene. The sickle-shaped red blood cell tends to die early. As the bone marrow cannot make new blood cells fast enough, the patient becomes anaemic and usually has a short life.

A study published in PLoS Medicine on July 16 states that by 2050 almost half a million babies are likely to be born with SCA compared to 305,800 in 2010. Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and India will be the most affected, notes the study conducted by Frederic Piel and colleagues from the University of Oxford and Imperial College in the UK and KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kenya. “Children with SCA usually die undiagnosed in their first years of life,” says Piel. “Appropriate health care will be needed early in life of these individuals to avoid future complications,” he adds.

“The most important thing is to create public awareness of SCA and how it is inherited. Secondly, there should be a population screening of teenagers and adults to detect the carrier of the gene,” says Isaac Odame, medical director of the Global Sickle Cell Disease Network. “Once that is done, counselling sessions should be provided to help prospective parents avoid pairing with each other. Lastly, every country should have a coherent national strategy for the management and control of SCA as recommended by the WHO,” says Odame.

“Preventive and curative measures for SCA are available but are very costly,” says S L Kate, head of the Sickle Cell Department at Maharashtra Arogya Mandal in Pune. “Simple, reliable and free diagnostic tests should be made available for poor people,” says Kate.

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