Aga Khan unveils new sickle cell disease treatment

Friday August 06 2021
Aga khan pic
By Josephine Christopher

Dar es Salaam. The first treatment by blood transfusion method to patients’ with sickle cell disease (SDC) has started at the Aga Khan Hospital.

Yesterday, Halima Omary (22) became the first patient with SCD to receive the new treatment at the hospital headquarters in Dar es Salaam.

The Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is an inherited disorder of the haemoglobin molecule of the red blood cells that is associated with serious complications and reduced life expectancy.

Tanzania is the fourth country in the world with the highest birth preva lence of SCD individuals after Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and India. The figure are six per 1,000 per year which is approximately 8,000 to 11,000 infants in a year.

Speaking about the procedure that takes three hours to complete, a hematologist, Dr Fredrick Luoga, said the blood transfusion is used to provide normal red blood cells to the patient’s body and also help lessen anemia and reduce the blood’s viscosity, allowing it to flow more freely and ease disease symptoms and prevent complications.

“A blood transfusion lowers the amount of hemoglobin S red blood cells in the body. When there are fewer sickled hemoglobin S cells in the bloodstream, they are less likely to build up and block blood vessels,” he said. Dr Luoga said this procedure had been done a few times by the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) but now the Aga Khan Hospital is the only hospital that will provide the treatment consistently.

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Ms Mwanaidi Sabuni, the parent of the first patient Halima, told The Citizen that she felt fortunate that her daughter is able to receive this treatment after suffering all her life with the disease.

“We found out she had sickle cell when she was in standard four in primary school; she was very sick and when we took her to MNH there is where we was diagnosed with SCD,” she said.

 Since that time, she said, her daughter has been treated using medical drugs prescribed by the doctors, but still she experienced some complications like yellow eyes and severe muscle pains.

“However, after she finished her ordinary level secondary school and college, she started having strokes, it was recurring, something which forced us to visit MNH for treatment frequently,” she said. She said through this new treatment, she hoped that her daughter can finally find relief and be able to live her life happily.