Thalassemia in Uganda: Prevalence, causes, and efforts for treatment

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By Michelle Marion Apio

Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder affecting hemoglobin production, crucial for oxygen transport.

Uganda exhibits a high prevalence of thalassemia, particularly alpha thalassemia. A 2015 study discovered a gene frequency of 0.425 for (-α) deletion, indicating that approximately 42.5% of Ugandans carry the alpha thalassemia gene.

The elevated occurrence of thalassemia in Uganda can be attributed to the prevalence of consanguineous marriages. These marriages involve closely related individuals like cousins, increasing the likelihood of both partners carrying the same thalassemia gene, leading to a higher risk of the disorder in their offspring.

Thalassemia presents various symptoms, including anemia, fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin, and jaundice. In severe cases, the disorder can even become life-threatening.

Although there is no cure for thalassemia, several treatments help manage its symptoms. These include blood transfusions, iron chelation therapy, and bone marrow transplatation.

The Ugandan government has taken steps to raise awareness and provide assistance for thalassemia. In 2018, they launched the National Thalassemia Control Program, aiming to offer screening, diagnosis, and treatment of thalassemia across the country.

Thalassemia prevalence in Uganda, notably alpha thalassemia, is influenced by consanguineous marriages. The disorder's impact can be severe, but management through various treatments offers hope. With the government's National Thalassemia Control Program, Uganda is taking proactive steps to address this issue and provide support for affected individuals.

Article written in part with the help of AI

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