Dr Julie Makani

Research Area: Global Health
Technology Exchange: Medical statistics
Scientific Themes: Tropical Medicine & Global Health and Genetics & Genomics
Keywords: Sickle Cell Disease, Genetics, Haematology and Malaria
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Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), is the single most important genetic cause of childhood mortality world-wide. Although SCD is essentially an African problem, where over 90% of affected individuals are born, virtually no systematic studies have been conducted and there are limited data on even the most basic issues, such as the common complications and the current mortality. The research group has established a systematic framework for prospective studies in Tanzania and they have recruited an active cohort of 1,600 SCD patients, which is one of the largest in Africa. The aim is to describe the clinical spectrum of SCD in E Africa by defining the major causes of morbidity and mortality, in order to determine the most appropriate interventions to be introduced in Africa. This study will also allow better understanding of the molecular, genetic and environmental mechanisms determining disease course and severity in Africa.

Due to its molecular basis, SCD presents great opportunities for integrating clinical, epidemiological, patho-physiological and genetic research. However, the fundamental problems limiting health care, training and research in Africa include lack of infrastructure and low critical mass of scientists and health care professionals. This has led to collaboration to support training programmes in Haematology and Blood transfusion in Tanzania with the intention of developing sustainable human resource capacity (pre-service and continuing professional training) in order to get adequate well-trained, knowledgeable people, with their own scientific and clinical capabilities to participate and contribute to sustainable health care solutions.

Julie is a Clinical Research Fellow in the Nuffield Department of Medicine and is based in the Department of Haematology and Blood Transfusion at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (www.muchs.ac.tz) which is the main clinical, academic and research centre in Tanzania.

Name Department Institution Country
Dr Sharon Cox London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine UK
Prof Charles Newton Tropical Medicine Oxford University UK
Prof Fenella Kirkham FRCP Institute of Child Health, University College London UK
Prof Swee Lay Thein Guys, Kings and St Thomas School of Medicine UK
Prof Ephata Kaaya Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences Tanzania
Prof David Roberts (RDM) Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University UK
Dr Jeffrey Barrett Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute United Kingdom
Dr Ines Barroso Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute United Kingdom
Prof Bob W Snow Tropical Medicine Oxford University UK
Prof Andrew Prentice London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine UK
Khadija Malima KEMRI Wellcome Programme / University of Oxford Kenya
Simon Hay University of Oxford Nairobi
Bernard Davies University College London UK

Cox SE, L'Esperance V, Makani J, Soka D, Prentice AM, Hill CM, Kirkham FJ. 2012. Sickle cell anemia: iron availability and nocturnal oximetry. J Clin Sleep Med, 8 (5), pp. 541-545. Read abstract | Read more

To test the hypothesis that low iron availability, measured as transferrin saturation, is associated with low nocturnal hemoglobin oxygen saturation (SpO(2)) in children with homozygous sickle cell anemia (SCA; hemoglobin SS). Hide abstract

Makani J, Cox SE, Soka D, Komba AN, Oruo J, Mwamtemi H, Magesa P, Rwezaula S et al. 2011. Mortality in sickle cell anemia in Africa: a prospective cohort study in Tanzania. PLoS One, 6 (2), pp. e14699. Read abstract | Read more

The World Health Organization has declared Sickle Cell Anemia (SCA) a public health priority. There are 300,000 births/year, over 75% in Africa, with estimates suggesting that 6 million Africans will be living with SCA if average survival reaches half the African norm. Countries such as United States of America and United Kingdom have reduced SCA mortality from 3 to 0.13 per 100 person years of observation (PYO), with interventions such as newborn screening, prevention of infections and comprehensive care, but implementation of interventions in African countries has been hindered by lack of locally appropriate information. The objective of this study was to determine the incidence and factors associated with death from SCA in Dar-es-Salaam. Hide abstract

Cox SE, Prentice AM, Makani J, Komba AN, Soka D, Newton CR, Kirkham FJ. 2011. Global arginine bioavailability in Tanzanian sickle cell anaemia patients at steady-state: A nested case control study of deaths versus survivors British Journal of Haematology, 155 (4), pp. 522-524. | Read more

Cox SE, Makani J, Fulford AJ, Komba AN, Soka D, Williams TN, Newton CR, Marsh K, Prentice AM. 2011. Nutritional status, hospitalization and mortality among patients with sickle cell anemia in Tanzania. Haematologica, 96 (7), pp. 948-953. Read abstract | Read more

Reduced growth is common in children with sickle cell anemia, but few data exist on associations with long-term clinical course. Our objective was to determine the prevalence of malnutrition at enrollment into a hospital-based cohort and whether poor nutritional status predicted morbidity and mortality within an urban cohort of Tanzanian sickle cell anemia patients. Hide abstract

Makani J, Menzel S, Nkya S, Cox SE, Drasar E, Soka D, Komba AN, Mgaya J et al. 2011. Genetics of fetal hemoglobin in Tanzanian and British patients with sickle cell anemia. Blood, 117 (4), pp. 1390-1392. Read abstract | Read more

Fetal hemoglobin (HbF, α(2)γ(2)) is a major contributor to the remarkable phenotypic heterogeneity of sickle cell anemia (SCA). Genetic variation at 3 principal loci (HBB cluster on chromosome 11p, HBS1L-MYB region on chromosome 6q, and BCL11A on chromosome 2p) have been shown to influence HbF levels and disease severity in β-thalassemia and SCA. Previous studies in SCA, however, have been restricted to populations from the African diaspora, which include multiple genealogies. We have investigated the influence of these 3 loci on HbF levels in sickle cell patients from Tanzania and in a small group of African British sickle patients. All 3 loci have a significant impact on the trait in both patient groups. The results suggest the presence of HBS1L-MYB variants affecting HbF in patients who are not tracked well by European-derived markers, such as rs9399137. Additional loci may be identified through independent genome-wide association studies in African populations. Hide abstract

McAuley CF, Webb C, Makani J, Macharia A, Uyoga S, Opi DH, Ndila C, Ngatia A, Scott JA, Marsh K, Williams TN. 2010. High mortality from Plasmodium falciparum malaria in children living with sickle cell anemia on the coast of Kenya. Blood, 116 (10), pp. 1663-1668. Read abstract | Read more

Although malaria is widely considered a major cause of death in young children born with sickle cell anemia (SCA) in sub-Saharan Africa, this is poorly quantified. We attempted to investigate this question through 4 large case-control analyses involving 7164 children living on the coast of Kenya. SCA was associated with an increased risk of admission to hospital both with nonmalaria diseases in general (odds ratio [OR] = 4.17; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.95-8.92; P < .001) and with invasive bacterial diseases in particular (OR = 8.73; 95% CI, 4.51-16.89; P < .001). We found no evidence for a strongly increased risk of either uncomplicated malaria (OR = 0.43; 95% CI, 0.09-2.10; P = .30) or malaria complicated by a range of well-described clinical features of severity (OR = 0.80; 95% CI, 0.25-2.51; P = .70) overall; nevertheless, mortality was considerably higher among SCA than non-SCA children hospitalized with malaria. Our findings highlight both the central role that malaria plays in the high early mortality seen in African children with SCA and the urgent need for better quantitative data. Meanwhile, our study confirms the importance of providing all children living with SCA in malaria-endemic areas with effective prophylaxis. Hide abstract

Makani J, Komba AN, Cox SE, Oruo J, Mwamtemi K, Kitundu J, Magesa P, Rwezaula S et al. 2010. Malaria in patients with sickle cell anemia: burden, risk factors, and outcome at the outpatient clinic and during hospitalization. Blood, 115 (2), pp. 215-220. Read abstract | Read more

Approximately 280,000 children are born with sickle cell anemia (SCA) in Africa annually, yet few survive beyond childhood. Falciparum malaria is considered a significant cause of this mortality. We conducted a 5-year prospective surveillance study for malaria parasitemia, clinical malaria, and severe malarial anemia (SMA) in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, between 2004 and 2009. We recorded 10,491 visits to the outpatient clinic among 1808 patients with SCA and 773 visits among 679 patients without SCA. Similarly, we recorded 691 hospital admissions among 497 patients with SCA and 2017 in patients without SCA. Overall, the prevalence of parasitemia was lower in patients with SCA than in patients without SCA both at clinic (0.7% vs 1.6%; OR, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.32-0.86; P = .008) and during hospitalization (3.0% vs 5.6%; OR, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.25-0.94; P = .01). Furthermore, patients with SCA had higher rates of malaria during hospitalization than at clinic, the ORs being 4.29 (95% CI, 2.63-7.01; P < .001) for parasitemia, 17.66 (95% CI, 5.92-52.71; P < .001) for clinical malaria, and 21.11 (95% CI, 8.46-52.67; P < .001) for SMA. Although malaria was rare among patients with SCA, parasitemia during hospitalization was associated with both severe anemia and death. Effective treatment for malaria during severe illness episodes and further studies to determine the role chemoprophylaxis are required. Hide abstract

Williams TN, Uyoga S, Macharia A, Ndila C, McAuley CF, Opi DH, Mwarumba S, Makani J et al. 2009. Bacteraemia in Kenyan children with sickle-cell anaemia: a retrospective cohort and case-control study. Lancet, 374 (9698), pp. 1364-1370. Read abstract | Read more

In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 90% of children with sickle-cell anaemia die before the diagnosis can be made. The causes of death are poorly documented, but bacterial sepsis is probably important. We examined the risk of invasive bacterial diseases in children with sickle-cell anaemia. Hide abstract

Sadarangani M, Makani J, Komba AN, Ajala-Agbo T, Newton CR, Marsh K, Williams TN. 2009. An observational study of children with sickle cell disease in Kilifi, Kenya. Br J Haematol, 146 (6), pp. 675-682. Read abstract | Read more

Globally, sickle cell disease (SCD) has its highest prevalence and worst prognosis in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, relatively few studies describe the clinical characteristics of children with SCD in this region. We conducted a prospective observational study of children with SCD attending a specialist out-patient clinic in Kilifi, Kenya. A total of 124 children (median age 6.3 years) were included in the study. Splenomegaly was present in 41 (33%) subjects and hepatomegaly in 25 (20%), both being common in all age groups. A positive malaria slide was found at 6% of clinic visits. The mean haemoglobin concentration was 73 g/l, compared to 107 g/l in non-SCD controls (P < 0.001). Liver function tests were elevated; plasma bilirubin concentrations were 46 micromol/l and aspartate aminotransferase was 124 iu/l. Forty-eight (39%) children were admitted to hospital and two died. Children with SCD in Kilifi have a similar degree of anaemia and liver function derangement to patients living in developed countries, but splenomegaly persists into later childhood. The prevalence of malaria was lower than expected given the prevalence in the local community. This study provides valuable data regarding the clinical characteristics of children living with SCD in a rural setting in East Africa. Hide abstract

Komba AN, Makani J, Sadarangani M, Ajala-Agbo T, Berkley JA, Newton CR, Marsh K, Williams TN. 2009. Malaria as a cause of morbidity and mortality in children with homozygous sickle cell disease on the coast of Kenya. Clin Infect Dis, 49 (2), pp. 216-222. Read abstract | Read more

To date, it has been widely assumed that malaria is a common cause of morbidity and mortality in children with sickle cell disease (SCD) in malaria-endemic countries, and as a result, malarial prophylaxis is commonly recommended. Nevertheless, few data are available that support this practice. Hide abstract

Jallow M, Teo YY, Small KS, Rockett KA, Deloukas P, Clark TG, Kivinen K, Bojang KA et al. 2009. Genome-wide and fine-resolution association analysis of malaria in West Africa. Nat Genet, 41 (6), pp. 657-665. Read abstract | Read more

We report a genome-wide association (GWA) study of severe malaria in The Gambia. The initial GWA scan included 2,500 children genotyped on the Affymetrix 500K GeneChip, and a replication study included 3,400 children. We used this to examine the performance of GWA methods in Africa. We found considerable population stratification, and also that signals of association at known malaria resistance loci were greatly attenuated owing to weak linkage disequilibrium (LD). To investigate possible solutions to the problem of low LD, we focused on the HbS locus, sequencing this region of the genome in 62 Gambian individuals and then using these data to conduct multipoint imputation in the GWA samples. This increased the signal of association, from P = 4 × 10(-7) to P = 4 × 10(-14), with the peak of the signal located precisely at the HbS causal variant. Our findings provide proof of principle that fine-resolution multipoint imputation, based on population-specific sequencing data, can substantially boost authentic GWA signals and enable fine mapping of causal variants in African populations. Hide abstract

Makani J, Kirkham FJ, Komba A, Ajala-Agbo T, Otieno G, Fegan G, Williams TN, Marsh K, Newton CR. 2009. Risk factors for high cerebral blood flow velocity and death in Kenyan children with Sickle Cell Anaemia: role of haemoglobin oxygen saturation and febrile illness. Br J Haematol, 145 (4), pp. 529-532. Read abstract | Read more

High cerebral blood flow velocity (CBFv) and low haemoglobin oxygen saturation (SpO(2)) predict neurological complications in sickle cell anaemia (SCA) but any association is unclear. In a cross-sectional study of 105 Kenyan children, mean CBFv was 120 +/- 34.9 cm/s; 3 had conditional CBFv (170-199 cm/s) but none had abnormal CBFv (>200 cm/s). After adjustment for age and haematocrit, CBFv > or =150 cm/s was predicted by SpO(2) < or = 95% and history of fever. Four years later, 10 children were lost to follow-up, none had suffered neurological events and 11/95 (12%) had died, predicted by history of fever but not low SpO(2). Natural history of SCA in Africa may be different from North America and Europe. Hide abstract

Achidi EA, Agbenyega T, Allen S, Amodu O, Bojang K, Conway D, Corran P, Deloukas P et al. 2008. A global network for investigating the genomic epidemiology of malaria Nature, 456 (7223), pp. 732-737. Read abstract | Read more

Large-scale studies of genomic variation could assist efforts to eliminate malaria. But there are scientific, ethical and practical challenges to carrying out such studies in developing countries, where the burden of disease is greatest. The Malaria Genomic Epidemiology Network (MalariaGEN) is now working to overcome these obstacles, using a consortial approach that brings together researchers from 21 countries. © 2008 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved. Hide abstract

Chokshi DA, Thera MA, Parker M, Diakite M, Makani J, Kwiatkowski DP, Doumbo OK. 2007. Valid consent for genomic epidemiology in developing countries. PLoS Med, 4 (4), pp. e95. | Read more

Makani J, Williams TN, Marsh K. 2007. Sickle cell disease in Africa: burden and research priorities. Ann Trop Med Parasitol, 101 (1), pp. 3-14. Read abstract | Read more

Sickle cell disease (SCD) has recently been recognised as a problem of major public-health significance by the World Health Organization. Despite the fact that >70% of sufferers live in Africa, expenditure on the related care and research in the continent is negligible, and most advances in the understanding and management of this condition have been based on research conducted in the North. In order to target limited resources, African countries need to focus research and interventions on areas that will lead to the maximum impact. This review details the epidemiological and clinical background of SCD, with an emphasis on Africa, before identifying the research priorities that will provide the necessary evidence base for improving the management of African patients. Malaria, bacterial and viral infections and cerebrovascular accidents are areas in which further research may lead to a significant improvement in SCD-related morbidity and mortality. As patients with high concentrations of foetal haemoglobin (HbF) appear to be protected from all but mild SCD, the various factors and pharmacological agents that might increase HbF levels need to be assessed in Africa, as options for interventions that would improve quality of life and reduce mortality. Hide abstract

Ajala-Agbo T, Komba A, Makani J, Williams T, Marsh K, Newton C, Kirkham F. 2006. Spectrum of cerebral blood flow velocities measured by transcranial Doppler ultrasonography in children with sickle cell disease in Africa DEVELOPMENTAL MEDICINE AND CHILD NEUROLOGY, 48 pp. 13-14.

Makani J. 2004. Stroke in sickle cell disease in Africa: case report. East Afr Med J, 81 (12), pp. 657-659. Read abstract

Stroke, including asymptomatic cerebrovascular events, is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in sickle cell disease, occurring with an incidence of 10 to 25%. Extensive research has established that cerebral stenosis, involving the circle of Willis, is the most common mechanism in children. We report a child with sickle cell disease who presented with cortical blindness and right-sided hemiplegia. Computerised tomography of the brain revealed an infarct involving the left parietal region and extending to the occipital region. Stroke in SCD is multifactorial, but high-risk individuals can be identified by simple well-established strategies such as transcranial doppler ultrasonography. There are approaches for both primary and secondary interventions, which have been shown to be effective and need to be incorporated into management guidelines for SCD patients. Before schemes are recommended into health care policies, research in the appropriate setting is required. Hide abstract

Makani J, Matuja W, Liyombo E, Snow RW, Marsh K, Warrell DA. 2003. Admission diagnosis of cerebral malaria in adults in an endemic area of Tanzania: implications and clinical description. QJM, 96 (5), pp. 355-362. Read abstract | Read more

Cerebral malaria is commonly diagnosed in adults in endemic areas in Africa, both in hospitals and in the community. This presents a paradox inconsistent with the epidemiological understanding that the development of immunity during childhood confers protection against severe disease in adult life. Hide abstract