Main Article Content
Background: Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a common genetic haematological disorder present in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In Tanzania, between 50% and 75% of the children born with SCD die before reaching the age of 5 years. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of SCD in children under 5 years of age attending Mbeya Referral Hospital between March and April 2014.
Methods: We conducted a hospital-based, cross-sectional, descriptive study in which 50 children under 5 were included at Mbeya Referral Hospital in southern Tanzania. Full blood counts were conducted using SYSMEX KX 21 and SYSMEX XT 2000i haematology analysers. The presence of haemoglobin S was determined using the sodium metabisulfite sickling test on blood samples with haemoglobin levels less than 10 g/dl.
Results: Blood samples from 50 infants and children under 5 were tested for sickle cell anaemia. Of these, 9 (18%) participants were found to be sickling test positive, 5 (55.6%) of whom were male and 4 (44.4%) were female. Almost half (n=4, 44.4%) of the SCD-positive children were between 25 and 36 months old, while the rest were between 13 and 24 months (n=2, 22.2%), 37 and 48 months (n=1, 11.1%), and 49 and 60 months (n=2, 22.2%) of age.
Conclusion: At our facility, among children under 5 with serum haemoglobin levels <10 g/dl, the prevalence of SCD was 18%. This might pose a substantial public health challenge in the region. More and larger studies are needed to help map out the sickle cell burden throughout the country to guide policy and management strategies.