The spatial epidemiology of sickle-cell anaemia in India.
Hockham C., Bhatt S., Colah R., Mukherjee MB., Penman BS., Gupta S., Piel FB.
Sickle-cell anaemia (SCA) is a neglected chronic disorder of increasing global health importance, with India estimated to have the second highest burden of the disease. In the country, SCA is particularly prevalent in scheduled populations, which comprise the most socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. We compiled a geodatabase of a substantial number of SCA surveys carried out in India over the last decade. Using generalised additive models and bootstrapping methods, we generated the first India-specific model-based map of sickle-cell allele frequency which accounts for the district-level distribution of scheduled and non-scheduled populations. Where possible, we derived state- and district-level estimates of the number of SCA newborns in 2020 in the two groups. Through the inclusion of an additional 158 data points and 1.3 million individuals, we considerably increased the amount of data in our mapping evidence-base compared to previous studies. Highest predicted frequencies of up to 10% spanned central India, whilst a hotspot of ~12% was observed in Jammu and Kashmir. Evidence was heavily biased towards scheduled populations and remained limited for non-scheduled populations, which can lead to considerable uncertainties in newborn estimates at national and state level. This has important implications for health policy and planning. By taking population composition into account, we have generated maps and estimates that better reflect the complex epidemiology of SCA in India and in turn provide more reliable estimates of its burden in the vast country. This work was supported by European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7//2007-2013)/European Research Council [268904 - DIVERSITY]; and the Newton-Bhabha Fund [227756052 to CH].