Neonatal screening for sickle cell anaemia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: experience from a pioneer project on 31 204 newborns

J Clin Pathol. 2009 Jan;62(1):35-8. doi: 10.1136/jcp.2008.058958.


Background: Despite the high prevalence of sickle cell disease in Africa, a neonatal screening programme is available in only a few countries in the sub-Saharan region.

Aim: To describe our experience of a pioneer study on 31,304 newborns screened systematically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Methods: The prevalence of haemoglobinopathies was determined by a thin-layer isoelectric focusing method on dry filter-paper samples.

Results: Of the 31,204 newborns screened by isoelectric focusing, 5,276 (16.9%) displayed sickle cell trait and 428 (1.4%) were homozygous for haemoglobin S. No statistical differences were observed in the different ethno-linguistic groups, but some tribes displayed a higher prevalence of the betaS gene, attributable to a higher prevalence of malaria, and a greater frequency of haemoglobin S homozygotes, in part attributable to an endogamic marriage system.

Conclusion: The neonatal screening programme has now been introduced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but the main challenges are to track all the new cases for a confirmatory test and to initiate early management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / diagnosis*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / epidemiology
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Neonatal Screening / methods*
  • Neonatal Screening / organization & administration
  • Prevalence
  • Program Evaluation