Huge breakthrough: Discovery made on a deadly disease

Huge breakthrough: Discovery made on a deadly disease

It's a major finding that could have big ramifications for the many African-Americans who have the sickle cell trait.

A groundbreaking new discovery published in the New England Journal of Medicine has come to a startling new conclusion: people who carry a gene for sickle cell disease may not have an elevated risk of death after all, a finding that surely would be a huge relief for the many African-American individuals who are born with the disease.

About one in every 365 black people born in America have sickle cell disease — which is when they have two copies of a gene for the disease — and about one in 13 black Americans have the sickle cell trait — or, they carry only one copy of thee gene. An earlier study suggested that the sickle cell trait can increase your risk of sudden death, but the new study says that may not be the case after all, according to a Stanford University Medical Center statement.

Sickle cell disease causes a red blood cells to become misshapen, which can resulted in reduced lifespans and chronic pain. The sickle cell trait, on the other hand, is more of a mystery: scientists aren’t sure if it is actually dangerous. However, this study indicates otherwise, although carriers of the trait are more likely to develop a condition that results in a breakdown of skeltal tissue from strenuous exercise.

The findings are based on the health records of 47,944 black soldiers who had a known sickle cell trait status between 2011 and 2014.

“The most important thing to come out of this study is the really reassuring news that under conditions of universal precautions against dehydration and overheating, we don’t see an elevation in the risk of mortality in people with sickle cell trait,” Lianne Kurina, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford, said in the statement.

The statement adds: “Kurina and her colleagues found that the risk of exertional rhabdomyolysis was only 54 percent higher among African-American soldiers with sickle cell trait than among those without it. A 54 percent increase might sound like a lot, but it’s far less than the 300 percent increase caused by some ordinary prescription drugs. And smoking, obesity and increasing age each incur a heightened risk of ER that is about the same as sickle cell trait, the study showed.”



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