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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.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Genomics

Publication Date





Comprehensive care, DNA sequencing, Haemoglobinopathies, Nanopore, Newborn screening, Sickle cell disease, Anemia, Sickle Cell, DNA, Diagnostic Tests, Routine, Hemoglobinopathies, Humans, Tanzania