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Challenging the popularly held notion that sickle cell trait could lead to premature death, a recent study has found out that those people who are born with a single sickle cell gene variant do not have a high risk of early death.
In order to reach the findings, the researchers followed around 48,000 black American soldiers on active duty in the United States army. These soldiers were followed for a period of four years and all of them had undergone tests for the genetic single cell trait.
Commenting on the findings, study co-author and an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California, Lianne Kurina said, “What we can say with confidence is that there’s no evidence that it increases mortality in this Army population, and that’s incredibly reassuring.”
Various prior studies have associated the sickle cell trait to a heightened increase in the risks of sudden and premature death, particularly amongst black military recruits and black football players on National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 teams.The researchers in these study noted that the deaths were caused by conditions like heat stress, heat stroke and muscle deterioration caused by heavy physical exertion.
The authors of the study also noted that due to such studies and the popularly-held belief, certain organizations like the United States Air Force, the NCAA and the United States Navy have mandatory screenings for recruits.
American Society of Hematology’s Vice President Dr. Alexis Thompson said that the organization believes that there is not sufficient data available to support the notion that mandatory screenings will help save lives. Thompson said, “These findings suggest that sickle cell trait alone does not increase an individual’s risk of sudden death.”
The findings of the study were published in The New England Journal of Medicine on August 3.