Know Your Genotype, Expert Tells NYSC Members

AN expert in sickle cell disease and founder of Sickle Cell Hope Alive Foundation (SCHAF), Professor Adeyinka Falusi, has stressed the importance of Nigerian youths knowing their genotype, in order to change Nigeria from being the capital country of sickle cell disease in the world.

Professor Falusi, in an overview of sickle cell disease at a 1-day training organised by SCHAF, in collaboration with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), to mark World Sickle Cell Awareness Month, stated that many people mistook their blood group for their genotype, with many only getting to know that they had the gene for sickle cell disease after marriage.

According to her, about six million Nigerians had sickle cell disease, with another 45 million as carriers of the traits of the disease that come with a lot of pain, leg ulcers, anaemia, damage to organs, loss of working hours, and other challenges.

The don said that 150,000 children were born annually in Nigeria with sickle cell disease, while many die because they were at increased risk of infections, strokes, painful erections, bone pains and jaundice.

“Don’t wait till you are about to get married to know the genotype of the person you want to marry. Knowing then may be too late. Don’t be blinded by love; know the correct genotype of your partner. The genotypes of the couple determine the genotypes of their offspring.

“We are not saying that a person with an AS genotype shouldn’t marry another person with an AS genotype. But we want them to make an informed decision,” the vice-chancellor said.

Vice-Chancellor of Chrisland University, Abeokuta, Professor Chinedum Babalola, said Nigerians must know that sickle cell disease was a serious life issue, while charging them to know their genotype from a reputable laboratory.

He said preventing sickle cell disease was better than its treatment with medicines.

Professor Babalola urged the NYSC corps members to be vanguards for sickle cell disease prevention, given that sickle cell disease was more of an African problem and drug development for its cure was slow.

Dr Olayinka Kotila, a senior lecturer at the University of Ibadan, said the economic and financial burden of sickle cell disease was huge.

“A study showed that a person with sickle cell disease spent nothing less than N76,000 per month on care, aside from the financial burden of hospitalisation, loss of work days for caregivers, absenteeism from school education.

“These unending costs and burdens for managing sickle cell disease are not comparable with those of genotype tests,” she declared.