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Sickle Cell: FG to introduce point-of-care testing into national policy

By Asma’u Ahmad

The Federal Ministry of Health says it will include point-of-care testing of sickle cell disease in the National Policy and Strategic Health Plan for prevention and control of sickle cell disease in Nigeria.

Dr Nnenna Ezeigwe, the National Coordinator, Non-Communicable Diseases Division in the ministry, made this known during the presentation of Hemo TypeSC, a new point-of-care test for the detection of sickle cell disease in Abuja on Tuesday.

Ezeigwe, represented by Dr Alayo Sopekan, National Officer, Sickle Cell Disease at the event, said Nigeria had the highest burden of the disease globally. She said the Federal Government had made a lot of investment in providing early interventions for people living with the disease in the country.

Dr. Nnenna Ezeigwe

“The main objective of that investment is not effective because we discovered that government cannot fund the logistics for the movement of the blood samples from one point the other. “With the presentation today, we can do away with the issue of logistics of moving blood samples from one point to another as the technology is simple and anybody can do it,” Ezeigwe said.

The point-of-care test kit was presented by Sickle Cell Support Society of Nigeria, an NGO, in Collaboration with Silver Lake Corporation Study, Asuza, California, U.S. Prof. Obiageli Nnodu, the Vice Chairperson, Sickle Cell Support Society of Nigeria, said the country was the first to test run the product globally.

She said the kit could be used either at home or at the point of care, adding that the test would enable the person being tested to know if he has a sickle cell gene within 10 minutes. According to her, the kit will be able to tell if the hemoglobin is AS, SS, AA or AC.

Nnodu said newborn screening of sickle cell disease was fundamental to the control of sickle cell disease in Nigeria. She added that implementation of newborn screening required the movement of blood samples to reference laboratories and other expensive equipment.

Nnodu said the society had chosen the immunisation points at Primary Health Care Centres to ascertain the viability of the product to provide sickle cell disease newborn screening. According to her, about 1.8 per cent of children aged zero to five in Nigeria have sickle cell. “This is not less than four million of the population when we were 160 million and it is more now since we are more than 160 million,” she said.

She noted that the prevalence rate of sickle cell disease was as low as 0.5 per cent when the survey was conducted within the adult population. Nnodu explained that most of the people with the disease died before the age of five due to lack of adequate intervention at the early stage of the disease.

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