Gov’t acquires machine for sickle cell screening

by | Apr 13, 2015 | News | 0 comments

Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson (third left), speaks with Senior Medical Technologist, Sickle Cell Unit, Sheldon Kelly (third right), about the High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) machine, which was officially handed over to the unit yesterday. Also photographed (from left) are: Vice Chancellor, UWI, Professor Nigel Harris; Counsellor of the Embassy of Brazil, Afonso Celso Nery; Director, Sickle Cell Unit, Professor Jennifer Knight Madden; and Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization Representative to Jamaica, Dr Noreen Jack.

The Government of Jamaica has acquired a High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) machine to aid in the reduction of deaths due to sickle cell disease.

The Sickle Cell Unit, located at the Tropical Medical Research Institute at University of the West Indies, Mona, received the machine from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), yesterday, at an official handing over.

The machine, which will be used to screen newborns for sickle cell disease, was acquired under a US$200,000 technical cooperation project between Brazil and Jamaica. It is already being used at the Sickle Cell Unit.

Jamaica is on its way to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality, through the acquisition of the machine, the Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson noted.

“That is important as right now in 2015, Jamaica is still lagging behind. We recognise that this machine will help in early detection, diagnosis and treatment and will make a big difference in the outcomes relative to sickle cell,” Dr Ferguson said.

The HPLC machine is one of many deliverables under the agreement between Brazil and Jamaica.

The agreement also includes the training of medical personnel by Brazilian specialists in neonatal screening and sickle cell disease management, as well as a study tour of the Brazilian sickle cell services.

The PAHO/World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Jamaica, Dr Noreen Jack, said early detection from screening is critical in the treatment of sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease or sickle cell anaemia is a recessive genetic blood disorder, which comes as a result of inheriting abnormal haemoglobin genes from both parents. It is characterised by the red blood cells assuming an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape.

Sickling decreases the flexibility of cells, blocking blood flow in the blood vessels in the limbs and organs, which can cause pain, serious infections, and organ damage.

An estimate indicates that 1.8 in every 1,000 persons in the Jamaican population has sickle cell disease.

Statistics from the WHO indicate that approximately five per cent of the world’s population carries the trait genes for sickle cell disease.

Date: March 2015

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