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Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder prevalent only in populations from malaria endemic areas. Affected children may suffer from pneumonias and other life-threatening complications early in life.
Therefore, in many countries of the world including France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Great Britain – not in Germany, however – newborns are routinely tested for the condition in screening programmes. Thus, they can be protected by antibiotic treatments and vaccinations right from birth and all affected children in these countries nowadays reach adulthood. Together with colleagues from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, we have found that, in Hamburg, 1 out of 2400 children is born with sickle cell disease, which is more frequent than any disease included in the German newborn screening programme. Most affected are children of the largest Ghanaian community in Germany comprising an estimated 20,000 members. Together with the Intercultural Migration Integration Centre (IMIC), we inform the Ghanaian community in Hamburg about inheritance and consequences of sickle cell disease in order to reach as many carriers of the sickle cell trait as possible. First results indicate that every fifth citizen of African descent carries the trait. If both parents are carriers, statistically one out of four children will be born with the disease. Our study is supported by the „Association of Friends of the Institute for Tropical Medicine, Hamburg“.
Christian Timmann, Christa Ehmen, Birgit Muntau, Bernd Noack and external co-operation partners (see publication)