Using DNA testing for the precise, definite, and low-cost diagnosis of sickle cell disease and other Haemoglobinopathies: findings from Tanzania.
Christopher H., Burns A., Josephat E., Makani J., Schuh A., Nkya S.
BACKGROUND: Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an important cause of under-five mortality. Tanzania is the 5th country in the world with the highest births prevalence of SCD individuals. Significant advances in the neonatal diagnosis of SCD using rapid point-of-care testing have been made. However genetic confirmation is still required for positive cases, in uncertain cases, in multiply transfused patients, to resolve compound heterozygosity (Hb S/ β0 Thal or Hb S/ β+ thal) not uncommon in the coastal regions of East Africa and increasingly also for pre-marital counselling and potentially for future curative approaches such as gene therapy. The currently available DNA tests are prohibitively expensive. Here, we describe an easy-to-use, affordable and accurate β-globin sequencing approach that can be easily integrated within existing NBS for SCD and other haemoglobinopathies especially in Low- and Middle-income Countries. AIM: To evaluate an affordable DNA technology for the diagnosis of Sickle cell disease and other haemoglobinopathies in a resource-limited setting. METHODS: Laboratory-based validation study was conducted by Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences and the University of Oxford involving sequencing of the entire β -haemoglobin locus using the Oxford Nanopore MinION platform. A total number of 36 Dried blood spots and whole blood samples were subjected to conventional protein-based methods (isoelectric focusing, HPLC), and/or sequenced by the Sanger method as comparators. RESULTS: Sequencing results for SCD using the MinION were 100% concordant with those from the Sanger method. In addition, the long-read DNA sequencing method enabled the resolution of cases with unusual phenotypes which make up 1% of all children in Tanzania. The cost is £11/ sample for consumables, which is cheaper compared to other sequencing platforms. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first report of a comprehensive single DNA assay as a definitive diagnostic test for SCD and other haemoglobinopathies. The test is fast, precise, accurate and affordable.