Most people go through their lives without knowing their genotype, and for many people, it does not seem to be necessary. However, for populations in which sickle cell anaemia is prevalent, knowing one’s genotype can be very important because it can assist people in preventing the illness or in better treatment for the illness. E.g., if two young people are becoming seriously involved, each knowing their personal genotype will inform them if their union can lead to a child being born with sickle cell anaemia. If a couple is already married, and wonders why a child continues to be ill despite repeated treatment, knowing that the child has the disease will aid the couple in seeking out treatment for the illnesses rather than becoming worried that something else is causing the child to continue to become ill.
Laboratory staff of Hope for the Village Child Foundation visit rural community churches on specified Sunday mornings to take advantage of the crowds that attend. This gives them an opportunity to educate the people on the disease and afterwards, to give people a choice whether they want to have a blood sample taken in order to determine their genotype. The people are quick to respond, and within 2016, from 11 rural communities, more than 2000 men, women and children were tested and given results indicating both their blood type and their genotype.
What exactly is the meaning of genotype?
Genotype is an inherited blood condition. There can be an inherited abnormality that can lead to disease. Genotyping is rated as AA, AS and SS. AA is the normal. If the genotype is AS, there is a small amount of abnormality. SS is the acquired condition that is already a disease due to its abnormality.
How does this affect the people with whom you work?
If two people both have AA genotype, their children will have normal blood condition. If one of the partners has AS and the other is AA, some of the children may have the normal condition, and others will have a small abnormality. If both are AS, there is high chance that one or two may have the disease condition. If both are SS, all of the children will be SS. And this will result in sickle cell disease.
What exactly is sickle cell anaemia?
In a person with sickle cell disease, the red blood cells are shaped in the form of a sickle, hence the name. The red cells are very weak compared to the normal red blood cell. As a result, they easily die off, and cause anemia in the person. This in turn causes the person to often become ill, even requiring blood transfusion at times.
Is it curable?
It is not curable but it can be controlled by regular checkups, by diet and medication where necessary.
Is it contagious? Can it be avoided?
It is not contagious but as noted above, it is inherited. Avoidance is through education and choice of marriage partner.