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Relationship between disease severity and folate status of children with sickle cell anaemia in Enugu, South East Nigeria

Uchenna C Nnajekwu
Chukwubike O Nnajekwu
Vivian O Onukwuli
Ndubuisi A Uwaezuoke
Osita U Ezenwosu
Anthony N Ikefuna
Ifeoma J Emodi


Background: Repeated crises in children with sickle cell anaemia (SCA), which is a manifestation of disease severity, results in depletion of their minimal tissue folate stores, with higher likelihood of folate deficiency. The study aimed to determine the relationship between disease severity and the folate status of children with SCA attending University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu.

Methods: This was a hospital based, cross-sectional study conducted between September 2018 and March 2019. One hundred participants were recruited, consisting of 50 children having sickle cell crisis and 50 age and gender matched hae- moglobin AA genotype controls. Relevant information was documented using a pretested questionnaire. Sickle cell severity score was determined using frequency of crisis, admissions and transfusions in the preceding one year, degree of liver and splenic enlargement, life-time cummulative frequency of specific complications of SCA, leucocyte count and haematocrit.

Results: Folate deficiency was observed in eight percent of the subjects and none of the controls. The difference was not significant (Fisher’s exact = 4.167, p=0.117). The odds of being folate deficient was 8.5 times more likely during anaemic crisis than in vaso-occlusive crisis, though not significant (95% C.I 0.05 – 89.750, p = 0.075). The mean SCA severity score was 8.06 ± 3.64, signifying a moderate SCA severity in the study population. There was a no relationship between folate status and severity of SCA (Fisher’s exact = 0.054, p = 0.949)

Conclusion: Folate status in children with SCA is not affected by their disease severity. Therefore, there may be no need for additional folate supplementation with increasing severity of sickle cell anaemia.

Keywords: Sickle cell anaemia; disease severity; folate status; children; Enugu.