The epidemiology of sickle cell disease in children recruited in infancy in Kilifi, Kenya: a prospective cohort study

Uyoga S, Macharia AW, Mochamah G, Ndila CM, Nyutu G, Makale J, Tendwa M, Nyatichi E, Ojal J, Otiende M, Shebe M, Awuondo KO, Mturi N, Peshu N, Tsofa B, Maitland K, Scott JAG, Williams TN
Lancet Glob Health. 2019;7

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BACKGROUND: Sickle cell disease is the most common severe monogenic disorder in humans. In Africa, 50-90% of children born with sickle cell disease die before they reach their fifth birthday. In this study, we aimed to describe the comparative incidence of specific clinical outcomes among children aged between birth and 5 years with and without sickle cell disease, who were resident within the Kilifi area of Kenya. METHODS: This prospective cohort study was done on members of the Kilifi Genetic Birth Cohort Study (KGBCS) on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. Recruitment to the study was facilitated through the Kilifi Health and Demographic Surveillance System (KHDSS), which covers a resident population of 260 000 people, and was undertaken between Jan 1, 2006, and April 30, 2011. All children who were born within the KHDSS area and who were aged 3-12 months during the recruitment period were eligible for inclusion. Participants were tested for sickle cell disease and followed up for survival status and disease-specific admission to Kilifi County Hospital by passive surveillance until their fifth birthday. Children with sickle cell disease were offered confirmatory testing and care at a dedicated outpatient clinic. FINDINGS: 15 737 infants were recruited successfully to the KGBCS, and 128 (0.8%) of these infants had sickle cell disease, of whom 70 (54.7%) enrolled at the outpatient clinic within 12 months of recruitment. Mortality was higher in children with sickle cell disease (58 per 1000 person-years of observation, 95% CI 40-86) than in those without sickle cell disease (2.4 per 1000 person-years of observation, 2.0-2.8; adjusted incidence rate ratio [IRR] 23.1, 95% CI 15.1-35.3). Among children with sickle cell disease, mortality was lower in those who enrolled at the clinic (adjusted IRR 0.26, 95% CI 0.11-0.62) and in those with higher levels of haemoglobin F (HbF; adjusted IRR 0.40, 0.17-0.94). The incidence of admission to hospital was also higher in children with sickle cell disease than in children without sickle cell disease (210 per 1000 person-years of observation, 95% CI 174-253, vs 43 per 1000 person-years of observation, 42-45; adjusted IRR 4.80, 95% CI 3.84-6.15). The most common reason for admission to hospital among those with sickle cell disease was severe anaemia (incidence 48 per 1000 person-years of observation, 95% CI 32-71). Admission to hospital was lower in those with a recruitment HbF level above the median (IRR 0.43, 95% CI 0.24-0.78; p=0.005) and those who were homozygous for alpha-thalassaemia (0.07, 0.01-0.83; p=0.035). INTERPRETATION: Although morbidity and mortality were high in young children with sickle cell disease in this Kenyan cohort, both were reduced by early diagnosis and supportive care. The emphasis must now move towards early detection and prevention of long-term complications of sickle cell disease. FUNDING: Wellcome Trust.