CASTRIES, St. Lucia, CMC – The St. Lucia-based Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) said Monday that babies being born in Grenada and Antigua-Barbuda are to benefit from a new sickle cell project which will test for the disease.
It said that the neonatal screening of sickle cell disease forms part of the INTERREG CARES project, which aims to facilitate stronger collaboration in the health sector between the Eastern Caribbean and the French Associate Members of the OECS, namely Martinique and Guadeloupe.
A delegation of medical experts from the Caribbean network of REsearchers on Sickle cell disease and Thalassemia (CAREST Network) and the University Hospital of Guadeloupe recently completed two technical missions in Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda.
The OECS said that the missions enabled partners of the project to discuss the advancement of one of the main components of INTERREG CARES, namely the improvement of screening and treatment of sickle cell disease in the nine-member OECS subgrouping.
It said that representatives of the two French organizations met with the English-speaking partners of the project, including health professionals – pediatricians, nurses, midwives, obstetricians -, sickle cell associations and representatives of the Ministries of Health in Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda.
The major objectives achieved include providing the technical capacities to enable practitioners to perform the extraction of samples on newborns in Grenada; defining the methods of transportation of these samples to the University Hospital of Guadeloupe as well as the transmission of the results of the analysis to clinicians in Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda; and ensuring the continuity of the screening of sickle cell disease after the closure of INTERREG CARES scheduled for December 2020.
Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic disease in the world and in the Caribbean in particular.
CAREST Network president Marie-Dominique Hardy-Dessources said as a result of the project, the screening of newborns can be pursued by rapid tests made available in health facilities in Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda.
“Indeed, early detection of sickle cell disease combined with appropriate medical care can improve the quality of life and the life expectancy of the patients.,” he added.
Grenada’s Chief Medical officer, Dr. George Mitchell said “this project has rejuvenated our screening program and rekindled our management of sickle cell patients, and our emphasis on sickle cell disease which is important in our population”.
The OECS Commission said experts from the two OECS countries will also benefit from training to facilitate the use of the tests, the performance of transcranial Doppler ultrasound and the detection of the risk of cardiovascular accidents of children with sickle cell disease.
INTERREG CARES is a programme of the European Union led by the Regional Council of Guadeloupe which assumes the role of managing authority of the Programme.
INTERREG enables the French and European territories of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique and Saint-Martin, to undertake regional cooperation actions with their neighbours in the OECS and the Greater Caribbean, which encompass more than 35 countries from Mexico in the north to Venezuela in the South.