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Sickle Cell Anemia


So let’s talk about one other situation, one other genetic condition called sickle cell anemia. This is another condition that is, again, a chronic situation that can cause lifelong illness. It causes things called sickle cell crises and they can cause problems. Sickle cell disease is associated with things like heart disease and strokes and anemia. All of these things can shorten an individual’s life and are associated with this chronic disease. This time, rather than being associated with ethnic groups of northern European descents, this is associated with ethnic groups of African descent. So African American families and individuals are at increased risk for sickle cell anemia. Just like with cystic fibrosis, it takes two copies of the mutated gene to have the disease. If you have one copy of the mutated gene, you’re a carrier, just like with cystic fibrosis. And carriers with sickle cell are sometimes called “sickle trait,” for whatever reason. They don’t really have the trait, per se, but it’s sickle trait rather than sickle cell anemia.

So about sickle cell, the one thing that’s different compared to cystic fibrosis is it’s a little easier to test because there’s one primary mutation. So you just have to test the one, rather than potentially the 200 mutations that there are in the cystic fibrosis gene. So it’s a small gene and easy to test. And the other reason it’s a little bit easier to talk about is that probably half of us here, me and you and you, and all of us wearing a uniform have probably been tested already. When we came into the military, we generally are screened and tested for sickle cell. Okay. So we don’t spend as much time on it, not because it’s less of a condition or as serious condition as compared to cystic fibrosis, but because we probably have already been tested … we probably know if one of us is a carrier. Okay.