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Background: Sickle cell disease (SCD) patients have mechanisms that are thought to protect them more than apparently normal individuals from iron deficiency. However, evidence exists that in SCD, hypoferritinaemia may be more prevalent than hyperferitinaemia, especially in developing countries.
Methods: Serum ferritin (SF) levels were measured - using an ELISA based kit (Biocheck, USA), and disease severity calculated in fifty- two asymptomatic steady state (ASS) SCD patients; who were iron chelation naive and both parameters correlated. Erythrocyte morphology and malaria parasitaemia were assessed, patients with parasitaemia were excluded. 64 apparently normal individuals in the same environment and socioeconomic group were also assessed as above and served as controls. Statistical analysis was done using SPSS version 20. Results were expressed as means and standard error of mean. Level of significance was set at p= 0.05.
Results: 30.7% and 7.6% of the test subjects had hypoferritinaemia and hyperferritinaemia respectively compared to controls, where 56% had hypoferritinaemia and none had hyperferritinaemia. Erythrocyte morphology showed hypochromia and microcytosis to different degrees in all test subjects assessed: 1+ (10.5%), 2+ (63.2%) and 3+ (26.3%), while only 5% of controls had hypochromia and microcytosis. Blood transfusion and age did not seem to significantly affect SF levels (p= 0.65 and 0.93) respectively. SF levels increased progressively with disease severity but didn’t reach statistical significance (p=0.29).
Conclusion: The results suggest that hypoferritinaemia is more prevalent than hyperferitinaemia, and that SF levels may be a useful index for computing an objective severity score in SCD management. Anaemia of chronic inflammation may cause a significant part of the anaemia in SCD.