An Overview of the History of Sickle Cell Anemia

When we talk about the sickle cell anemia, the question arises that what is the History of sickle cell anemia. This question took us too long time ago where the roots of this disease are found. It seems to be much common in the African tribes, where we find that most of the child suffering from this disease dies in their early childhood. Due to this factor this disease remained hidden for many years. On the other hand this disease’s symptoms resemble much of a tropical disease in African tribes. So, if we want to find out the exact History of sickle cell anemia we will surely get confused and will find no clues about it. However this article will provide you bit knowledge about the basic History of sickle cell anemia.


The findings lead us five centuries back from the time. The African tribes gave this disease different names; ahututuo, chwecheechwe, nuidudui, and nwiiwii etc. they were named after the pains and symptoms shown in this disease. In those tribes the percentage of this disease was very high but they refer it to the evil spirits who want to come in the new born child. They believed that the newborn child has fought the demon bravely and defeated it by dying. In most of the tribes the percentage of the people who were the carrier of sickle cell disease genes was as much as 40%.


While trying to find out the History of sickle cell anemia we went back to early 19s. In the year 1904 the first officially reported cases of sickle cell was found. The first patient was a dentistry student who came to Chicago to study. He was the first black student in the whole school. He once suffered from breathing problem, heart palpitations, abdominal pain, and aches and pains in his muscles, along with the frequent episodes of tiredness. The patient came to a cardiologist Dr. James B. Herrick who assigned this case to a resident Dr. Ernest Irons. While examining the blood under the microscope he found the red blood cells shaped unusual. He illustrated that they have a sickle type shape. When Herrick saw them he was surprised and got interested in it as it might be an unseen and unknown disease. This discovery about the cell shapes proved to be very important in the History of sickle cell anemia. Later he published a paper named as “sickle shaped cells”.


The study of the History of sickle cell anemia shows that it was most common in the tropical regions. It had a connection with malaria. It was observed in the 1940s, by a British Medical Officer E.A.Beet that the patients with sickle cell anemia had less reports of severe anemia as compared to the person who do not possess the sickle cell trait. Another person named as Anthony Allison worked a lot on this connection between sickle cell and malaria. He found in 1954 that protection against malaria is found in sickle cell persons.


In the years afterward, research was done on adults which showed that only children with sickle cell traits have developed immunity against malaria. This was not found in the adults as they could not develop antibodies.  Later it was discovered that only those who have sickle cell trait are protected from malaria but not the ones who have sickle cell disease. The study of the History of sickle cell anemia depicts that the malaria parasite could not survive for a long period of time in low oxygen conditions. Due to this factor the malaria parasite fails to survive in the presence of Hb S in red blood cells.


The study of the History of sickle cell anemia shows that it has long roots in the human civilization but was diagnosed after long time. However after its discovery a lot of work is done for its treatment and positive progress is made in this concern.

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