Día Mundial de la Drepanocitosis

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La drepanocitosis (anemia drepanocítica o falciforme, sicklemia) es la enfermedad genética más frecuente en el mundo. Está presente en cuatro continentes: en África sub sahariana y el Maghrib, en Asia, en las Américas, en el norte (Estados Unidos), en el centro (Guatemala, las islas del Caribe), y en el sur (Brasil, Surinam, Guyana) y en el sur de Europa (sur de Italia y Sicilia, Grecia, Turquía). Se estima que anualmente nacen 500 000 niños con esta condición invalidante y grave y que el 50% fallecerá antes de los 5 años. De manera transcontinental, la enfermedad es transétnica y afecta a las poblaciones negras de origen africano y poblaciones árabes, indias y caucásicas del sur de Europa.

A través de la propuesta de la Organización Internacional de la Sicklemia (Sickle Cell Disease International Organisation, SCDIO), el apoyo de las repúblicas del Congo y de Senegal, el compromiso del mundo científico, la Unión Africana (en el 2005), la Unesco (2005), la OMS (2006), y las Naciones Unidas (2008) reconocieron a la sicklemia como una prioridad de salud pública. Se escogió el 19 de junio, día del nacimiento de Walter Clement Noel, para celebrar el Día Mundial de la Drepanocitosis con el objetivo de llamar la atención sobre el padecimiento, y para declararlo como un tema de salud pública. El Día se conmemoró por primera vez el 19 de junio del 2009.

Walter Clement Noel, hijo de un acomodado hacendado, nació en 1884 en el pequeño pueblo de Sauteurs, al norte de la isla de Granada. Cursó estudios secundarios de estomatología primero en Barbados y luego en los Estados Unidos. Poco después de su llegada a Nueva York enfermó, mostrando lo que se conoce actualmente como los síntomas típicos de la drepanocitosis o siclemia, como son las lesiones en la piel, dolor en las extremidades y falta de aire. Al ser admitido en el Hospital Presbiteriano de Chicago, fue atendido por el Dr. Ernest E. Irons, quien notó ciertas anormalidades en la forma de las células sanguíneas, las que describió como de «forma alargada en forma de pera y algunas pequeñas».

Los informes sobre estos hallazgos fueron entregados al Dr. James B. Herrick quien continuó documentando estos hechos tan raros, durante los siguientes dos años y medio. En 1910, tres años después que Walter había regresado a Granada para practicar su especialidad, el Dr. Herrick, asistido por el Dr. Irons, prepararon y publicaron el artículo que describía «la forma peculiar y alargada y en forma de hoz de los glóbulos rojos en el caso de una anemia grave». La descripción del paciente era nada menos que Walter Clement Noel, convirtiéndolo en el primer caso documentado de anemia drepanocítica o falciforme, registrada en la Medicina occidental.

Existe muy poca información documentada sobre la vida de Walter a su regreso a Granada en 1907 hasta su muerte nueve años más tarde, en mayo de 1916 a la edad de 32 años.

Autor: Brigada Médica Cubana en Haití

 

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