More than 30 children are currently being treated for sckle cell disease, according to Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), with more than 70,000 newborns screened as part of Qatar’s efforts to identify the ailment.
Sickle cell disease is a disorder that affects the red blood cells in the body. The cells become sickle shaped instead of their normal round shape, causing patients to encounter symptoms related to anaemia and blood clots such as pain in the bones, fatigue, and delayed growth. In some cases this disease could also lead to strokes.
Senior Consultant for Paediatrics at Hamad General Hospital, Dr Mohammed Abulaban said: “It is a genetic disease inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern which means that the child will not inherit the disease unless both parents pass down a defective copy of the gene. Normally, red blood cells can live for 120 days in the body, while sickle-shaped cells live only for about 10 to 20 days.”
In 2012, HMC and Germany’s University of Heidelberg Hospital extended their collaborative efforts to include a sickle cell disease screening in the neonatal screening programme, which will help in the early and direct identification of the sickle cell mutation in newborns in order to provide early and appropriate care before complications develop.
Until now more than 70,000 babies in Qatar have been screened under this programme.
“Early diagnosis is an effective way to address the issue before starting a family and can be done through DNA testing before birth to check if the fetus is at risk of having sickle cell disease. Other treatments available for treating sickle cell include folic acid prescriptions, taking daily doses of penicillin to avoid infections and blood transfusions,” Dr Abulaban said.
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