Written by: Vida Michelle
Sickle Cell Disease has traditionally and primarily been linked to the African American community. The truth is a high number of Latinos, and other nationalities are also affected by this incurable condition. Although the numbers are significantly lower in Latinos, as well as the others, they are still significant.
Research shows that 1 out of every 1,200 Latinos is born with Sickle cell disease and 1 out of 100 Latinos carries the Sickle cell trait. The Sickle cell trait tends to affect people whose ancestors came from Africa, Latin America, and The Caribbean where a lot of Afro-Latinos have roots. The number in cases is also higher in places like Saudi Arabia, India, and Sri Lanka, and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece and Italy.
You may wonder why Sickle cell affects some cultures and not others.
The widely accepted theory is that the defective gene that causes Sickle cell disease evolved in places where the rates of fatal malaria epidemics were high. It is thought that Sickle cell was the genetic solution, or the body’s way to protect itself against malaria.
People with sickle cell trait are more protected against malaria because the abnormal shape of the cell. The sickle shape prevents the organism malaria produces from penetrating. This was the body’s way of fighting against malaria.
*Malaria is a potentially fatal disease that lives in tropical climates. It is caused by a parasite, and spread through the bite of an infected female mosquito.
As more and more of the people with this new adaptation survived and reproduced the sickle cell trait was passed on and became prevalent in those countries and regions.
This trade off has caused a different issue for the communities it affects. Where Malaria can be a one time occurrence easily treated and cured, Sickle cell is an ongoing incurable disease that requires ongoing maintenance and treatment and can also be fatal if not monitored and controlled.
Interestingly enough, Sickle cell was born, affects, lives in, and sometimes kills the very people it was trying to help protect.