OBJECTIVE: Sickle cell disease is a lifelong illness affecting millions of people globally, but predominantly burdensome in sub-Saharan Africa, where most affected children do not live to adulthood, despite available evidence-based interventions that reduce the disease burden in high-income countries.
METHOD: We reviewed studies evaluating evidence-based interventions that decrease sickle cell disease-related morbidity and mortality among children living in sub-Saharan Africa. We used the Joanna Briggs scoping review methodological framework and grouped identified evidence-based interventions into preventative pharmacotherapeutic agents, newborn screening and comprehensive healthcare, disease-modifying agents, nutritional supplementation, systemic treatment, supportive agents and patient/carer/population education.
RESULTS: We included 36 studies: 18 randomized controlled trials, 11 observational studies, 5 before-and-after studies and 2 economic evaluation studies, with most of the studies performed in West African countries. Included studies suggest evidence-based interventions effectively to reduce the common morbidities associated with sickle cell disease such as stroke, vaso-occlusive crisis, acute chest syndrome, severe anaemia and malaria infection. Evidence-based interventions also improve survival among study participants. Specifically, our review shows hydroxyurea increases haemoglobin and foetal haemoglobin levels, a finding with practical implications given the challenges with blood transfusion in this setting. The feasibility of implementing individual interventions is hampered by challenges such as affordability, accessibility and the availability of financial and human resources.
CONCLUSION: Our review suggests that regular use of low-dose hydroxyurea therapy, sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine chemoprophylaxis, L-arginine and Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and establishment of specialist stand-alone sickle cell clinics could reduce the sickle cell disease-associated morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa countries.