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Journal Article

Thalassemia and hemoglobinopathy prevalence in a community-based sample in Sylhet, Bangladesh


Wendt,  Amanda
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Brintrup,  Joaquin
External Organizations;


Waid,  Jillian Lee
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Kader,  Abdul
External Organizations;


Lambrecht,  Nathalie
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Gabrysch,  Sabine
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Wendt, A., Brintrup, J., Waid, J. L., Kader, A., Lambrecht, N., Gabrysch, S. (2023): Thalassemia and hemoglobinopathy prevalence in a community-based sample in Sylhet, Bangladesh. - Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, 18, 192.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_28646
Background: Inherited blood disorders affect 7% of the population worldwide, with higher prevalences in countries in the “thalassemia belt,” which includes Bangladesh. Clinical management options for severely affected individuals are expensive; thus, targeted government policies are needed to support prevention and treatment programs. In Bangladesh, there is a lack of data, in particular community-based estimates, to determine population prevalence. This study aims to estimate the prevalence of a wide range of hemoglobinopathies and their associations with anemia in a community-based sample of women and young children in rural Sylhet, Bangladesh. - Methods: Capillary blood samples from 900 reproductive-aged women and 395 children (aged 6–37 months) participating in the Food and Agricultural Approaches to Reducing Malnutrition (FAARM) trial in two sub-districts of Habiganj, Sylhet Division, Bangladesh were analyzed for alpha thalassemia, beta thalassemia, and other hemoglobinopathies. We examined the association of each inherited blood disorder with hemoglobin concentration and anemia using linear and logistic regression. - Results: We identified at least one inherited blood disorder in 11% of women and 10% of children. Alpha thalassemia was most prevalent, identified in 7% of women and 5% of children, followed by beta thalassemia and hemoglobin E in 2–3%. We also identified cases of hemoglobin S and hemoglobin D in this population. Having any of the identified inherited blood disorders was associated with lower hemoglobin values among non-pregnant women, largely driven by alpha and beta thalassemia. Pregnant women with beta thalassemia were also more likely to have lower hemoglobin concentrations. Among children, we found weak evidence for a relationship between hemoglobinopathy and lower hemoglobin concentrations. - Conclusions: We found a high prevalence of alpha thalassemia among both women and children in rural Sylhet, Bangladesh–higher than all other identified hemoglobinopathies combined. Community-based estimates of alpha thalassemia prevalence in Bangladesh are scarce, yet our findings suggest that alpha thalassemia may comprise the majority of inherited blood disorders in some regions of the country. We recommend that future research on inherited blood disorders in Bangladesh include estimates of alpha thalassemia in their reporting for public health awareness and to facilitate couples counseling.