Gulf Daily News
Sickle cell down 50pc in infants
By SOMAN BABY
Published: 18th June 2007
THE prevalence of sickle cell diseases among newborns has been reduced by 50 per cent thanks to a major project to control hereditary blood diseases that started in 2005, it was revealed yesterday.
The $300,000 (BD113,100) project, carried out by Bahrain government with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is to be completed by the end of the year.
It has been successful in reducing the prevalence of sickle cell diseases among newborns by 50pc, from 2pc to 0.09pc, said UN resident co-ordinator and UNDP resident representative Sayed Aqa.
The measures already undertaken are health education, screening and premarital counselling, he told a Press conference at the UN House in Manama yesterday.
More than 18,000 students have also been screened for hereditary blood diseases, said Mr Aqa.
"Twelve per cent of them have been found to be suffering from genetic diseases," he revealed.
The Press conference was also addressed by Health Ministry assistant-undersecretary for training Dr Fawzi Amin, genetic clinic head Dr Shaikha Al Arrayed, UNDP programme analyst Ali Salman and Education Ministry students activities director Fareeda Al Jishi.
"The UNDP is one of our active partners which supports us in achieving our goals," Dr Amin said.
Control of hereditary blood diseases is one component of a three-component joint project between UNDP and the Health Ministry. The other two components are HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, and non-communicable diseases. The project began in 2005 and is due to be finalised by the end of this year, said Mr Salman.
"The project is aimed at controlling the diseases through building national capacities within the Health Ministry, health education and raising public awareness on national level, improving reporting systems, and upgrading preventive, diagnostic and curative services," said Mr Aqa.
CDs prepared as educational awareness materials were handed over to the Education Ministry yesterday. The materials include booklets, lectures, leaflets, and reports related to the blood diseases in Bahrain.
Five thousand copies have been printed and will be distributed to hospitals (public and private), schools, universities, and citizens, said Mr Salman.
Fifteen copies of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) books and 20 copies of Guides to SCD have been purchased to equip hospitals in Bahrain with the up-to-date research results on the disease.
The taskforce responsible for screening students for hereditary blood diseases was put in place, through which three campaigns of screening students at schools have been completed, which has covered 18,000 students, said Mr Aqa.
The completed data had been sent to the Education and Health ministries and to the schools. Two Bahraini technicians from the Health Ministry were sent on specialised training courses on Molecular Diagnoses of Genetic Blood Disease to the National Institute of Health and Medical Research Centre, Paris. The one-month training course started on June 7.
A detailed report on sickle cells was prepared by a UNDP consultant, who stressed the need to set up a sickle cell centre at the Health Ministry.
Specialised training for nurses and doctors on the management of patients with sickle cells was also conducted. A special type of computer software was developed through which registering and monitoring of patients can be done more efficiently, said Mr Aqa.
He said the consultant's visit had tremendous effect as the Health Ministry established a special unit in the accident and emergency department, a ward and approved a dedicated centre for the SCD patients.
A survey (study on community awareness of Inherited Blood Disorders) has also been developed. A project to support newborn screening will start soon, Mr Aqa said. "The training of staff on best international practices in the filed of genetic blood diseases will also continue," he added