By Agnes Kyotalengerire
A recent Uganda Sickle Cell surveillance Study (US3) has revealed that Northern Uganda has the highest prevalence of the disease.
The preliminary findings of the on-going study indicated that the region has 18.6 % sickle cell trait.
According to the study, the region also has the highest malaria parasites prevalence of 63% and highest anaemia prevalence of 74%.
The senior consultant paediatrician working at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Professor Grace Ndeezi said the study conducted by Ministry of health together with Makerere College of health Sciences and Cincinnati Children’s hospital in the US was designed to map the prevalence of the sickle Cell anaemia in Uganda.
“We have been quoting out dated figures of a study that was carried out in 1949 indicating the Bamba having the highest sickle cell trait at 45%,” Professor Ndeezi said.
She said the study used specimen of babies aged between six weeks and eighteen months collected from the 76 hubs distributed throughout the country for the early infant detection of HIV program.
The findings also indicate that there is association between sickle trait/disease with malaria parasitemia and anaemia.
Secondary to northern region, east central has a sickle cell prevalence of 16.7%, malaria prevalence of 56% and anaemia at 70%.
Sickle cell patients were given T-shirts during the conference at Hotel Africana. PHOTO/Agnes Kyotalengerire
This is followed by mid -eastern Uganda with a sickle cell trait prevalence of 16.5%, malaria at 36% and anaemia prevalence and 57%.
South western region has the lowest sickle cell trait prevalence of 4.1%, 12% malaria and 40% anaemia.
The preliminary findings of the on- going survey were unveiled during a one-day 2nd annual sickle cell conference organized by Uganda American Sickle Cell Rescue Fund in collaboration with the Ministry of health and BMK Group organized at Hotel Africana in Kampala on Thursday to commemorate the World Sickle Cell Day.
The World Sickle Cell Day was established by the United Nations General assembly in 2008 in order to increase awareness about the sickle cell disease and its cause among the common public.
The Vice President, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi while addressing participants said with the high sickle cell trait prevalence rates in the regions put couples at a risk of having a child with the sickle cell disease.
“This is an issue that should not be taken lightly because sickle cell disease is a reality in this country and a silent killer,” Ssekandi said.
He said part of the solution for the problem lies in opening and equipping sickle cell clinics, creating funds like Uganda American Sickle Cell Rescue Fund (UASCRF) and enhancing awareness among the ordinary people.
Sickle cell patients studying the drugs they received at the Conference. PHOTO/Agnes Kyotalengerire
What is sickle cell anaemia?
Head of sickle Cell Clinic Mulago hospital, Dr Phillip Kasirye said sickle cell anaemia as an inherited condition where red blood cells become sickle shaped causing many problems.
Dr Kasirye said the red colour of blood is made up of a pigment called haemoglobin which carries oxygen to body tissues for normal function & removes carbon dioxide.
“Normal haemoglobin is AA, carriers have AS and sickle cell patients have SS.
Haemoglobin S is abnormal and it causes the red cells to form sickle shape & clog blood vessels.
This causes pain, can lead to organ damage & increased risk to infections,” he said.
Early signs present at six to eight months with swelling of the hands and feet in the first year of life.
Have low blood levels (anaemic), yellow eyes especially when dehydrated, grow delays, abnormally big heads, stroke, men usually have uncontrolled painful erection.
Others may have ulcers and bone infections.
Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi giving certificates to counsellors who recently trained to handle sickle cell patients. Looking on is Sarah Opendi, minister of state for health during the conference at Hotel Africana. PHOTO/Agnes Kyotalengerire
Worldwide, sickle cell disease is one of the most inherited diseases with Africa having the highest cases.
It is estimated that over 400,000 babies are born with sickle cell disease worldwide and over 200,000 births occurring in the sub-Saharan Africa.
Professor Ndeezi estimated that of the 1, 600,000 births per year, over 20,000 babies are suspected to be born with the sickle cell genre in Uganda annually.
Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi and Sarah Opendi, minister of state for health pose for a picture with sickle cell patients who received drugs during the conference . PHOTO/Agnes Kyotalengerire
She said out of the 23, 000, children’s specimen that was tested in the different regions during the study, it was discovered that 2,800 babies were carrying a sickle cell genre a proportion of 12%.
This implies that one in every ten babies born in Uganda carry the genre.