n South African Medical Journal - Observed full blood count and lymphocyte subset values in a cohort of clinically healthy South African children from a semi-informal settlement in Cape Town : research

Volume 105, Issue 7
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



The paediatric full blood count and lymphocyte subset reference intervals used by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), South Africa (SA), are taken from two international reference interval publications. Differences in reference intervals suggest that international data sets may not be appropriate for use in SA.

To study immunohaematological values of a group of clinically healthy children from an informal settlement in Cape Town, SA, to assess whether international paediatric reference intervals used by the NHLS are appropriate.
A cross-sectional study of 207 female and 174 male HIV-uninfected children living in an informal settlement in Cape Town was performed. Full blood counts, automated differential counts and lymphocyte subset analysis were done using internationally accepted technologies. Data were categorised by age and reference intervals compiled using medians and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Gender comparisons were calculated by non-parametric tests.
Although median and 95% CI values differed slightly, physiological trends for red cell, platelet, white blood cell differential and lymphocyte subsets were similar to international reference intervals currently in use at the NHLS. Benign ethnic neutropenia was not a significant finding, and gender-specific intervals were not necessary until 12 years of age. Lower overall median values for haemoglobin and haematocrit, and higher median values for mean cell volume and red cell distribution width, were noted. Assessment of haemoglobin, red cell distribution width and calculated Mentzer ratios suggested underlying iron deficiency in 14.2% of participants.
Paediatric immunohaematological reference intervals observed in this study are similar to, and support continued use of, international paediatric reference intervals. Underlying iron and related nutritional deficiencies may be contributing to lower haemoglobin levels noted in local children. A larger nationwide study, including all ethnic groups, is recommended.

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