Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sickle cell study boosts call for improved childhood immunization programs in Africa

11.09.2009
Children in Africa with sickle cell anaemia are dying unnecessarily from bacterial infections, suggests the largest study of its kind, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The results are published today in the journal the Lancet. The study has prompted calls for all children in Africa to receive vaccinations against the most common bacterial infections.

Sickle cell anaemia affects millions of people worldwide, but more than eighty per cent of cases are in Africa, where 200,000 children are born with the disease every year. It is a genetic disease, which leads to the formation of sickle-shaped red blood cells. These cells do not pass easily through blood vessels and can form clusters which block the flow of blood to limbs and organs, leading to pain, serious infections and organ damage.

Despite the huge number of children who are born with sickle cell anaemia in Africa annually, the diagnosis is often delayed and 90% of these children die before the disease is ever diagnosed. It has long been assumed that severe infections are responsible for many of these deaths, but this has never been properly investigated.

To find out the scale of the problem in Africa, researchers at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)-Wellcome Trust Programme in Kilifi, on the coast of Kenya, studied blood samples from all children aged under fourteen who were admitted to the local hospital during a ten year period between 1998-2008. They screened for cases of bacteraemia (bacterial infections of the blood) and then tested the positive samples for sickle cell anaemia.

By screening almost 40,000 admissions to the hospital, the researchers identified more than 2,000 cases of bacteraemia. However, whilst in the general population less than three in 1,000 children were found to have sickle cell anaemia, this figure increased more than twenty-fold – to over sixty per 1,000 – for children admitted to hospital with bacteraemia, confirming that, as in the developed world, African children with sickle cell anaemia are at huge risk of bacteraemia.

Amongst the most common causes of bacteraemia amongst children with sickle cell anaemia were Streptococcus pneumoniae (accounting for 41% of cases) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (12% of cases), both of which are serious infections, that may lead to pneumonia or meningitis, but are preventable by vaccination.

The research was led by Dr Tom Williams, a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow and Reader in Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford. He commented: "Our study provides strong impetus for the introduction of vaccination programmes for all children in Africa, a move that will dramatically improve the survival chances of children born with sickle cell anaemia. Health policies need to be based on solid evidence such as this research, rather than on rumour and personal preference."

The researchers estimate that in Kilifi, it is likely that up to one quarter of all child-deaths are attributable to sickle cell anaemia, with bacterial infections accounting for a sizable proportion.

Developing countries are working to reduce childhood mortality to meet one of the Millennium Development Goals. However, the focus is on the major causes of mortality – more than 70 per cent of child deaths every year are attributable to six causes: diarrhoea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth. As childhood mortality falls, Dr Williams believes that the relative contribution of sickle cell anaemia will increase without the development and implementation of specific interventions.

"To date, sickle cell anaemia has not enjoyed a high priority on African health agendas, despite the relatively high impact it has on childhood mortality, which far exceeds estimates for HIV," he says. "HIV commands vast attention from the international community, yet sickle cell anaemia is virtually invisible on the international health agenda."

Dr S K Sharif, Director of Public Health and Sanitation for the Kenyan government, says:

"This study will make a huge difference to the way my ministry thinks about sickle cell disease. We need much more information along these lines to help us develop appropriate policies that will help us to improve the lives of all Kenyans born with this condition."

Craig Brierley | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wellcome.ac.uk

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>