Cousin marriage is a major factor in producing children with thalassaemia, and it can be mitigated if potential spouses are screened for the disease.
This was the crux of discussions that kicked off the two-day 8th National Thalassaemia Conference on Saturday. The event is being held at Islamic International Medical College, a constituent institute of Riphah International University (RIU). Focused on raising awareness about the disease and publicising strategies to make Pakistan a thalassaemia-free country, the conference was organised in collaboration with Thalassaemia Federation of Pakistan (TFP).
TFP General Secretary Dr Yasmin Rashid said it is necessary for families with a history of thalassaemia to screen their children before marriage to help control the spread of the disease in Pakistan, where at present 5.5% people carry thalassaemia genes. She said if both parents have thalassaemia genes, there is a 50% chance their children would be thalassaemia minor, and a 25% chance that they would be thalassaemia major, patients.
In case the children are thalassaemia major, they would not be able to generate red blood cells and would require repeated blood transfusions every month just to survive.
Pre-natal test of the baby is a preventive measure that can be undertaken in which blood samples of the unborn baby are tested for thalassaemia genes.
Speakers urged the government to discourage cousin marriages and reduce the prices of life-saving drugs for thalassaemia patients.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2012.