Touching Lives - October 2011
Developing a novel diagnostic test for sickle cell disease in babies
Children with sickle cell disease face a lifetime of ill health. Their red blood cells are an abnormal shape and this can block blood vessels, reducing blood flow in organs and limbs. This causes intense pain and makes the child prone to infections, anaemia and the risk of other complications, which can be life-threatening.
The most reliable diagnostic tests for the disease are complicated, time-consuming and often not useful in an emergency. Notably, they cannot predict how severe the disease is.
Action is funding work to tackle these issues. Researchers in London, Oxford and Cambridge, led by Dr John Gibson, are developing a test they believe will be simpler, cheaper and easy to distribute. This new test could provide faster results and, for the first time, identify babies who are most at risk of severe illness, so they can benefit from immediate and intensive treatment.