Scientists in Nigeria have discovered a new method for the prevention of sickle cell anemia through embryo genetic testing. This was unveiled by a consultant Gynecologist, Dr Ibrahim Wada, at Nisa Premier Hospital, Abuja.
Dr Wada, while unveiling the new method at the hospital, said there was no objection to using a technology to determine the health of an unborn child.
He said the technology is called Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis, PGD, lamenting that sickle cell anemia (or HbSS) is a chronic debilitating genetic disorder and is common among Africans and people living in the malaria belt of the world.
Giving statistics about the disease, he said Nigeria carried the highest disease burden in the world, with over four million sufferers and about 150,000 children born with the disorder every year.
He disclosed that at present, there was no tangible coordinated effort to tackle the disease in Nigeria, unlike the efforts being made to tackle malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.
Mr Chris Danga, a clinical embryologist at the hospital, who explained to journalists how the technology works, said couples who preferred the option of PGD could have embryos generated through In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), while the cells obtained from the embryos were tested for the presence of HbSS.
One-third of all indigenous inhabitants of Sub-Saharan Africa carry the gene, because in areas where malaria is common, there is a fitness benefit in carrying only a single sickle-cell gene (sickle cell trait). Those with only one of the two alleles of the sickle-cell disease, while not totally resistant, are more tolerant to the infection and thus show less severe symptoms when infected.
The United Nations General Assembly on 22 December 2008, resolved to recognize Sickle Cell Anaemia as a public health problem deserving of national and international support and declared 19th June as World Sickle Cell Day.