Ghana must prioritize knowledge on sickle cell disease — Prof. Ofori-Acquah

He said the burden of undiagnosed genetic diseases, low information, and family discourse, had triggered unhappiness among some Ghanaian families with the disease.

To understanding the disease therefore, one must be able to appreciate the interaction between genes, lifestyle, and the environment, to offer help to people, especially kids, who were helpless in this country.

Prof Ofori-Acquah was speaking at a public lecture on the Ghanaian Genome (GhGenome) Project at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi.

Sickle Cell Disease caused by inheritance of one sickle cell mutation, according to him, was the most common genetic disease and most of the cases were in Africa.

Over one percent of all babies with SCD have one parent who is negative for the sickle cell mutation; non-paternity may be assumed wrongly to be the reason for this phenomenon in most cases.

In Ghana, one out of every 50 babies born has sickle cell disease.

He said it was, therefore, the duty of experts to decode the Ghanaian genome to help people embrace sick conditions.

Prof Ofori-Acquah said Ghana ought to develop genetic programmes to diagnose rare diseases and to identify mutations that drove childhood cancers, adding that, it was a major developmental health challenge.

He mentioned that the West African Genetic Medicine Center and the African Center of Excellence had put up proposals to address developmental health challenges.

“A developmental challenge is genetic disorders, and this can be done but cannot be done alone in the universities or laboratory, this requires a national conversation,” he observed.

Over 400 children in Ghana are diagnosed with cancer every year – lymphomas and leukaemia (40 percent), RB1 gene mutations (15 percent), Wilms tumour (15 percent) and others constitute 30 percent.

He pointed out that, lack of genetic testing in Ghana meant a death sentence for many children diagnosed with childhood cancers, saying “it is our duty to decode the mutations that cause childhood cancers in Ghana.”

The GhGenome Project is focused on training, research, as well as public and community engagement in all aspects of the human genome in Ghana.