The global burden of sickle cell anemia in young children is increasing

The global burden of sickle cell anemia (SCA), a hereditary blood disorder, is increasing, with almost half a million babies estimated to be born with the condition in 2050, according to a study published in this week's PLOS Medicine. The study, conducted by Frédéric Piel and colleagues from the University of Oxford and Imperial College in the United Kingdom, and the KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya, suggests that implementing basic health interventions could significantly reduce death rates in children aged less than 5 years with the condition. These findings can be used to guide national policy decisions on public health spending.

The researchers used estimated country rates of SCA and information on projected birth rates to show that the number of newborn babies with SCA is likely to increase from roughly 305,800 in 2010 to about 404,200 in 2050. Newborn babies in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and India will be most affected, accounting for 57% of all of the babies born with SCA in 2010, and this proportion is likely to increase by 2050.

The authors show that implementing basic health interventions for SCA such as newborn screening, penicillin prophylaxis, and vaccination, by 2015, could increase survival of more than five million newborns with SCA by 2050. Similarly, programs could save the lives of almost 10 million newborns with SCA globally, 85% of whom will be born in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the findings of this study are limited by the uncertainty around these estimates, and the assumptions made by the authors about how the estimated reduced death rates were linked with the .

The authors say: "Our quantitative approach confirms that the global burden of SCA is increasing, and highlights the need to develop specific national policies for appropriate public health planning, particularly in low- and middle-income countries."

In an accompanying perspective article, David Osrin and Edward Fottrell of UCL Institute of Child Health, United Kingdom (both uninvolved in the study), discuss how as child death rates decrease, the relative burden of child morbidity and disability will increase, saying: "SCA is an inherited disease whose global importance will increase in terms of absolute numbers and relative population burden."

Osrin and Fottrell urge the global health community to respond to the changing patterns of disease burdens, saying: "The estimates from Piel and colleagues underscore the need for both collaborative responses and better data for planning and monitoring."

More information: Piel FB, Hay SI, Gupta S, Weatherall DJ, Williams TN (2013) Global Burden of Sickle Cell Anaemia in Children under Five, 2010: Modelling Based on Demographics, Excess Mortality, and Interventions. PLoS Med 10(7): e1001484. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001484

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

QRS width on ECG linked to sudden cardiac arrest in CAD

Apr 20, 2012

(HealthDay) -- For patients with coronary artery disease (CAD), QRS width on electrocardiogram and echocardiographic evidence of heart failure are associated with out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), ...

Mapping the global burden of sickle cell anaemia

Oct 25, 2012

The first rigorous study to assess the global burden of sickle cell anaemia in recent times is reported today in the Lancet, giving an up-to-date view of the distribution of the disease. Accurate estimates of the ...

Nearly half of all child deaths caused by malnutrition

Jun 05, 2013

Malnutrition is responsible for nearly half (45 percent) of all deaths in children under five, according to new research published as part of The Lancet Series on maternal and child nutrition. The results show that malnut ...

Recommended for you

We drink more alcohol on gym days

9 hours ago

A new Northwestern Medicine study finds that on days when people exercise more—typically Thursdays to Sundays—they drink more alcohol, too.

Obesity and stress pack a double hit for health

14 hours ago

If you're overweight, you may be at greater risk for stress-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a new study by Brandeis University.

User comments