Friday, 19 July

G6PD: 20% of Ghanaians live with the ‘inherited’ condition, men are most affected – Dr Nunoo

Health News
Dr Ewura Adjoa Ahimah Nunoo

The medical condition called Glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase deficiency (G6DP) has been highlighted in pop culture in Ghana.

This follows a viral video in which the late Gospel star Kofi Owusu Dua-Anto (KODA) was seen confessing he had G6DP, while bemoaning he had once been given a medication which was harmful in view of the condition. He refrained from naming the medical facility and the doctor, however.

On the Class Morning Show, a senior medical officer in-charge of the Duala Medical Centre, Burma Camp, Accra, Dr Ewura Adjoa Ahimah Nunoo, speaking to Prince Benjamin (PB) revealed “about 20 per cent of Ghanaians” live with the condition. Around the world, she added, “about 400 million people” have G6PD.


She said “it’s quite common in Africans, Black Americans, the Mediterraneans, Asians,” adding it affects men more.


She explained a “genetic disorder,” the condition “has to do with an enzyme in the body which basically maintains the structure of the red blood cells” and “the absence of this enzyme” results in “what we called G6PD”.

Noting that men have X & Y chromosomes, and women X & X, the health advocate pointed out G6PD happens due to “a defective gene in the X chromosome”.

She said G6PD “is more common in men because they have just one X chromosome” compared to women who have two and could better handle one chromosome carrying the defective gene.

The 2022 Global Women Leadership Summit & Honours Medical Media Personality of the Year said a mother, carrying the G6PD gene, because of her double X chromosomes, “may not show symptoms but can pass it on to her male child”.

She stressed it is an “inherited” condition going down “from a parent to a child” and not communicable from person to person.


The multiple award-winning health advocate underlined until “certain medications, foods, and infections trigger G6PD,” some individuals may not know they have it.

She confirmed KODA saying sulfa drugs were not good for individuals with G6PD, noting antibiotics are thus proscribed because they “stress red blood cells”.

She mentioned ibuprofen, aspirin, and chloroquine, among others, as triggers.

She also underlined the use of moth balls (camphor) and tattooing products like “henna” could trigger a G6PD attack.

Answering a listener’s question, she indicated products with sulfite, like some wines, can trigger G6PD attacks, clarifying, also, sulfates (salt) are fine.

Dr Ewura Adjoa Ahimah Nunoo said pregnant women who are unidentified G6PD carriers, may react to sulphadoxine pyrimethamine (SP), an antimalarial drug given during antenatal, thus “we usually screen them”.


On G6PD attacks, she explained when an individual comes into contact with a trigger, the red blood cells breakdown and “you become anemic at a very quick pace” resulting in reduced oxygen in one’s body.

Symptoms, she said, include “jaundice, your heart rate increases”.

“You realise you can’t breathe effectively, you can have abdominal pains, fever, you may go into shock, you become pale, dizzy, so tired – it may be so bad that you’d need a blood transfusion so it can bring back your haemoglobin to where it should be,” she added.


The general practitioner warned “if it is not managed correctly, if you are not aware of [having] it” or if an individual self-medicates, they could put their life in danger having G6PD, although due to “limited research,” she could not reveal number of fatal cases recorded in Ghana.

She warned G6PD crisis via “hemolytic anemia” could lead to “acute kidney injury” which “may cause kidney disease and you can die from acute kidney failure”.


She categorically said “it’s a chronic disease like having sickle cell disease” and thus cannot be cured.

“It doesn’t go away, it’s part of you, so you have to live with it,” she emphasised, edifying, “you can live a regular life once you know you have it,” do regular checkups, inform one’s doctor about the condition and avoid self-medication.


“It can be detected at birth if a blood sample is taken,” Dr Nunoo said, noting: “Either than that it is not easily detectable because it is not a routine test.”

She encouraged parents to test their wards for G6PD early when they take them to the “pediatrician for weighing and vaccination,” adding it will help discover “a partial or full defect depending on the levels of the enzyme in your body”.

According to her, “you can take a G6PD test whether you’ve eaten or not and it won’t affect the sample,” indicating, also, the test costs about GHS60 at government hospital, and it is, however, not covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

Source: Benjamin