A $2, 10-minute rapid point-of-care tool has brought the much elusive goal of rapidly screening Africa’s newborns for sickle cell disease (SCD), a major cause of child mortality, within reach.
Each year about 300,000 infants are born with major sickle-cell disorders—including more than 200,000 cases in Africa, according to WHO. A sickle cell patient can suffer intermittent extreme body pain commonly referred to as a “crisis” due to the “sickling” of some red blood cells.
But the integration of newborn screening into existing primary healthcare immunization programs is feasible and can rapidly be implemented with limited resources, according to a study led by professor Obiageli Nnodu, director of the Centre of Excellence for Sickle Cell Disease Research and Training at Nigeria’s University of Abuja.
To realistically screen every newborn for sickle cell disease, Nnodu says a simple, reliable and affordable point-of-care rapid test will be deployed at immunization clinics, a place most newborns will visit soon after birth. One such example is the HemoTypeSC) from Silver Lake Research, a diagnostics firm based in southern California. Already registered in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, the test utilizes specific and sensitive monoclonal antibodies that are embedded on a test strip to detect hemoglobins A, S, and C.