The major pathology in sickle cell anaemia (SCA) is sickling of red cells due to the precipitation of reduced haemoglobin. We report our experience with extract of Cajanus cajan as a possible antisickling agent by determining changes, if any, in clinical and laboratory features of the disease in patients given the extract in a single-blind placebo-controlled study. One hundred patients with steady-state SCA were randomized into treatment and placebo arms. The extract/placebo were administered twice daily to the subjects. Weight, hepatosplenomegaly, blood levels of biliurubin, urea, creatinine, and packed cell volume (PCV) were monitored over a 6-month period. Recall episodes of pain 6 months before enrolment were compared with episodes of pains recorded during the treatment period. Twenty-six cases (55.3 per cent) had hepatomegaly on enrolment. This significantly reduced to 33.3 per cent at 6 months (p = 0.03); but increased in the placebo arm (p>0.05). The total number of recall painful episodes in cases was 207 (mean 4.4 ± 10.3 (SD), range 0–60) and fell to 191 (mean 4.2 ± 4.4 (SD), range 0–16); p = 0.03. Episodes of pain increased from 109 in controls (mean 2.6 ± 5.0 (SD), range 0–26) to 164 (mean 3.9 ± 4.3 (SD), range 0–22); p = 0.01. Mean PCV in the cases showed no appreciable changes (p = 0.1) but there was a significant increase in the controls (p = 0.02). In conclusion, the extract may cause a reduction of painful crises and may ameliorate the adverse effects of sickle cell anaemia on the liver. The mechanism of action remains to be determined.
1Department of Paediatrics, College of Medicine of University of Lagos (CMUL), Nigeria, 2Department of Haematology and Blood Transfusion, College of Medicine of University of Lagos (CMUL), Nigeria