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20 June, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Thalassemia causing severe anemia in children


Thalassemia, a hereditary blood disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce hemoglobin and red blood cells, is one of the worst type of diseases causing severe anemia among children in Bangladesh and elsewhere across the world, reports BSS. According to Bangladesh Thalassemia Foundation (BTF), a Thalassemia patient

needs 1-2 bags of blood every month to survive and the disease is very common in Bangladesh. At least 7% of the Bangladesh population is thalassemia carriers, it said.

The BTF also said that every year 7,000 new babies are born with thalassemia in Bangladesh and the disease can be easily preventable with proper knowledge and awareness. A person with thalassemia has too few red blood cells and too little hemoglobin.

The impact can range from mild to severe and life-threatening, expert said.

Eminent physicians often suggest conducting blood tests of both male and female before getting married only to ensure that a baby is not born with thalassemia, a genetically inherited deadly disease transmitted to babies by parents. They also suggest avoiding intra-family marriage to keep them away from giving birth to a Thalassemia trait infant.

“Both male and female should go for a detailed blood test before getting married to find out the symptoms of possible emergence of the chronic disease Thalassemia,” Secretary General at Bangladesh Thalassemia Foundation Dr M Abdur Rahim said.

A simple health check up for Thalassaemia carrier status before starting a family can save any future child from becoming a patient of Thalassaemia Major, unending cycle of injections, suffering and misery, says the eminent haematologist.

“The ‘Thalassemia major’ occurs when a person inherits two Thalassemia genes, one from each parent. Both parents may have ‘Thalassemia minor’ but when two individuals who have ‘Thalassemia minor’ get married, there is a 25 percent possibility that any pregnancy can result in a child with Thalassemia major,” Dr Rahim said.

Director of Dhaka Shishu Hospital Prof Dr Manzoor Hussain said: “If we can

introduce the anti-natal screening system in our country, we can decrease the rate of the disease by terminating the Thalassemia positive unborn.”

 Around 100,000 newborns are delivered each year with severe form of thalassemia, most common with Mediterranean, South Asian, and African ancestry. Symptoms will not show until the age of 6 months in most infants with beta thalassemia and some types of alpha thalassemia.

The physicians say prevention is the only measure that can drastically reduce the incidences of severe blood disorders. In affluent areas, the  prevention of thalassemia is largely dependent on prenatal care. If newly

pregnant couples come in for prenatal care, tests for blood disorders like thalassemia are conducted, amongst many other crucial exams to ensure the growth of a healthy embryo.

According to them, if the new pregnancy is tested positive for thalassemia parents are counseled on their options, including early termination. This form of screening and prevention has been very effective so

that no more than 20-30 new births with thalassemia occur as opposed to the

expected several hundreds.

After 6 months “normal” hemoglobin starts replacing the fetal type, and symptoms may begin to appear with jaundice and pale skin, drowsiness and fatigue, chest pain, cold hands and feet, shortness of breath, leg cramps, rapid heartbeat, poor feeding, delayed growth, headaches, dizziness and faintness and greater susceptibility to infections.

Skeletal deformities may result as the body tries to produce more bone marrow. If there is too much iron, the body will try to absorb more iron to compensate. Iron may also accumulate from blood transfusions. Excessive iron can harm the spleen, heart, and liver.

According to the physicians, patients with hemoglobin H are more likely to develop gallstones and an enlarged spleen. Untreated, the complications of thalassemia can lead to organ failure. Thalassemia is likely to emerge as a major health concern in South Asia and Bangladesh as it lies in the world’s thalassemia belt.

In a comprehensive review paper on Thalassemias in South Asia: clinical lessons learnt from Bangladesh, a group of physicians have depicted the epidemiological aspects of thalassemias, mutation profile and current treatment and management practices in the country by sharing the experience of dealing with 1,178 cases over the 2009-2014 period in a specialized thalassemia treatment centre.

They have also discussed the preventative strategies of thalassemias from the context of Bangladesh which could be effective for other developing countries. Having a thalassemia trait means that one may not have any symptoms, but might pass that trait on to the children and increase their risk for having thalassemia.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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