Research Article: Complete blood count reference intervals from a healthy adult urban population in Kenya

Date Published: June 7, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Geoffrey Omuse, Daniel Maina, Jane Mwangi, Caroline Wambua, Kiran Radia, Alice Kanyua, Elizabeth Kagotho, Mariza Hoffman, Peter Ojwang, Zul Premji, Kiyoshi Ichihara, Rajiv Erasmus, Michael Nagler.


There are racial, ethnic and geographical differences in complete blood count (CBC) reference intervals (RIs) and therefore it is necessary to establish RIs that are population specific. Several studies have been carried out in Africa to derive CBC RIs but many were not conducted with the rigor recommended for RI studies hence limiting the adoption and generalizability of the results.

By use of a Beckman Coulter ACT 5 DIFF CP analyser, we measured CBC parameters in samples collected from 528 healthy black African volunteers in a largely urban population. The latent abnormal values exclusion (LAVE) method was used for secondary exclusion of individuals who may have had sub-clinical diseases. The RIs were derived by both parametric and non-parametric methods with and without LAVE for comparative purposes.

Haemoglobin (Hb) levels were lower while platelet counts were higher in females across the 4 age stratifications. The lower limits for Hb and red blood cell parameters significantly increased after applying the LAVE method which eliminated individuals with latent anemia and inflammation. We adopted RIs by parametric method because 90% confidence intervals of the RI limits were invariably narrower than those by the non-parametric method. The male and female RIs for Hb after applying the LAVE method were 14.5–18.7 g/dL and 12.0–16.5 g/dL respectively while the platelet count RIs were 133–356 and 152–443 x103 per μL respectively.

Consistent with other studies from Sub-Saharan Africa, Hb and neutrophil counts were lower than Caucasian values. Our finding of higher Hb and lower eosinophil counts compared to other studies conducted in rural Kenya most likely reflects the strict recruitment criteria and healthier reference population after secondary exclusion of individuals with possible sub-clinical diseases.

Partial Text

Reference intervals (RIs) play an important role in guiding the interpretation of laboratory results. However, several factors influence RIs with the notable sources of variation being age, sex, race, body mass index (BMI) and ethnicity [1,2]. Use of inappropriate RIs can result in misclassification of patients and subsequent mismanagement [3]. For this reason, it is recommended that laboratories determine RIs that are appropriate for the population they serve or at the very least verify any proposed RIs [4].

Several studies carried out in Africa have reported marked differences in some CBC parameters when compared to Caucasian populations and even between different populations across Africa as shown in S3 and S4 Tables. A fairly consistent finding has been the lower RIs for absolute neutrophil counts in black African populations which is thought to be associated with the DARC-null genotype, an evolutionary adaptation thought to make Africans less susceptible to Plasmodium vivax infections [8]. In contrast to RIs from the US where the absolute neutrophil count RI is 1800–7700 cells/μL [26], the parametrically derived neutrophil count RI for males and females in our study was significantly lower at 1050–4080 cells/μL, which is in keeping with what has been found in other African studies [6,7,21]. Neutrophil count RIs with LLs as low as 500 and 840 cells/uL have been reported in Togo and Uganda respectively as shown in S4 Table.




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