BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: To determine whether the persistence of splenomegaly characteristic of the Asian haplotype of homozygous sickle cell (SS) disease is associated with continued splenic function, a comparison of patients from Odisha, India, and Jamaica. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Indian patients were examined in a cross-sectional study and compared with the Jamaican Cohort Study from birth. Splenomegaly was assessed in both populations with standard methods. Splenic function was assessed in both by counts of pitted red blood cells determined by differential interference contrast microscopy in the same laboratory. RESULTS: In Jamaica, the spleen became palpable in 55% of patients during the 1(st) year of life and the prevalence declined thereafter, whereas in Indian patients, the prevalence rose steeply after the age of 4 years. Raised pitted red cell counts, consistent with loss of splenic function, were common after 2 years in Jamaicans but did not increase in Indians until after the age of 5 years. INTERPRETATION AND CONCLUSIONS: The maximal risk of invasive pneumococcal infection in SS disease falls sharply after the age of 3 years, and persistence of splenic function in Odisha patients beyond this age may explain the apparent absence of pneumococcal septicemia in Indian patients and questions the role of pneumococcal prophylaxis.