Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a major public health issue in India that warrants immediate diagnosis to avoid deaths in affected populations. Delays in diagnosing SCD could be detrimental to the person suffering from the disease.

Business Wire reported that researchers from the National Institute of Research in Tribal Health (NIRTH) in India reviewed a diagnostic platform that has been approved in other countries to look for a rapid, low-cost, point-of-care, diagnostic tool to diagnose sickle cell disease (SCD) in remote regions in India.

They found that it yielded a high accuracy of 99% compared to reference standard tests, like hemoglobin electrophoresis and HPLC.

 Sickle Cell Disease: Rapid, Low-Cost Diagnostic Platform GazelleTM Could Improve Care in Remote Regions
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
Sickle Cell (Drepanocytes) are found in patient with sickle cell disease and other sickle syndromes but not in sickle trait. They are banana shaped red cells.

Better Diagnostic Tool for Remote Areas

According to the news outlet, the NIRTH team compared how well Gazelle could detect sickle cell disease compared to standard laboratory tests: hemoglobin electrophoresis and HLPC. Their study included 960 subjects from tribal states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, between ages six months to 65 years old.

The results showed that the diagnostic tool performed with similar accuracy as those of the two standard SCD diagnostic tests, but it performed better in terms of speed and ease. Also, it does not require any trained healthcare worker to administer in areas with limited access and resource, such as electricity.

Furthermore, it was able to 100% accurately identify patients with the disease, demonstrated 100% sensitivity when they compared sickle cell disease to sickle cell trait, and sickle cell disease versus normal cells. More so, the diagnostic platform scored high in sensitivity and specificity for detecting each relevant hemoglobin phenotype, whether it is normal, a carrier of the disease, and the disease itself.

Overall, it yielded a 99% rate of accuracy in diagnosing sickle cell disease compared to the two reference standard tests. Since current tests available are laboratory-based, expensive, and require trained personnel, the NIRTH team recommends Gazelle as a rapid, and low-cost diagnostic platform for SCD.

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Sickle Cell Disease vs. Sickle Cell Trait

According to the American Society of Hematology, sickle cell disease is the most common form of inherited blood disorder that is present in affected individuals at birth and causes abnormal reproduction of hemoglobin.

Individuals with SCD have rigid red blood cells that are C--shaped or sickle, from which the disease takes its name. Unlike healthy RBCs, sickle cells can get stuck and block blood flow, which causes pain and infections. The worst complications that come from SCD are organ damage, acute chest syndrome in which oxygen levels in the blood lower, and premature death.

On the other hand, individuals with sickle cell trait only have one defective gene and typically live a normal life without the problems associated with sickle cell disease. But sometimes, on rare occasions, high-intensity physical activity and severe dehydration could trigger the trait and lead to sudden death.

Both sickle cell disease and sickle cell traits are hereditary blood disorders wherein both parents are either carriers of the genes or have SCD themselves.

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