Red cell membrane abnormalities in hereditary spherocytosis patients of KwaZulu-Natal.
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Hereditary Spherocytosis (HS) is a common inherited haemolytic anaemia with variable clinical expression. Fifty subjects with HS from KwaZulu-Natal were studied with the aim of providing further information on the protein abnormalities of the red blood cell (RBC) membrane and their relationship with clinical presentations. Haematological and biochemical tests were performed by routine procedures. Mean Corpuscular Haemoglobin Concentration ( MCHC) in the HS group was 35.1g /dl. This was significantly higher than in normal control subjects (33.6g /dl) (p value < 0.001); indicating its usefulness for the screening of HS. Mean Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW) was also significantly higher in subjects with HS (p<0.001); thus providing an additional screening tool. Erythrocyte membrane proteins from 21 subjects were analysed by SDS - polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) using the Laemmli and Fairbanks methods. The most common abnormality was a deficiency of band 3 (10 subjects), followed by a combined spectrin and ankyrin deficiency in five subjects. One subject had increased band 6 and in five cases no abnormality was detected. A decreased ratio of protein 4.1a / 4.1b on the Laemmli SDS PAGE correlated with an increased reticulocyte count. The degree of haemolysis and clinical findings did not correlate with the type of red cell membrane protein defect. In this study red cell membrane analysis did not contribute further to the initial laboratory diagnosis. In addition it did not influence clinical management. The presence of red cell membrane abnormalities, either single or multiple, did not correlate with disease severity. Red cell membrane analysis, however, will play an important role for future management such as gene therapy. Red cell membrane analysis is also useful as a research tool to determine the underlying molecular defect and to assess racial or ethnic differences. It is also of value as a differential diagnostic tool in cases where the clinical and laboratory findings are not conclusive for HS.