In a previous retrospective study, it was observed that the greater the amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the blood, the lesser the number of complications of sickle cell disease (SCD) and the higher the steady state haemoglobin level.

SCD causes ischaemia-reperfusion injury and inflammation; which can be ameliorated by a metabolite of DHA that down-regulates expression of pro-inflammatory genes.

The objectives of this prospective pilot study were to evaluate the effects of DHA and EPA supplements in SCD, and test the hypothesis that these effects are mediated partly by reducing inflammation. Oral DHA and EPA supplements were given to 16 SCD patients for 6 months. We then compared pre- and post-supplementation values of number of crisis, steady state Hb, plasma unconjugated bilirubin and three indices of inflammation: plasma interleukin-6, blood neutrophil and platelet counts.

There was a significant reduction in the plasma level of unconjugated bilirubin, and the number of sickle cell crisis; but not in the markers of inflammation. The pilot data suggest that DHA and EPA supplements reduce the number of crisis and steady state haemolysis in SCD; but provide no evidence that these effects are mediated by reducing inflammation.