Expert lauds efforts for zero incidence of genetic diseases
Bahrain may take between five and 10 years to reach near-zero incidence of genetic diseases, an international expert said yesterday.
The Chairman of the Department of Genetics at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, Ahmad S. Teebi, said that the incidence among the Arab population was significant, and Bahrain was no exception.
"At the rate at which Bahrain is going and the comprehensive programmes it has in place, we should see that the Kingdom reaches a near-zero rate in the next few years. At the present rate, it should take about 10 years but these things improve with time," Teebi told the Tribune on the sidelines of the first GCC Genetic Conference at Gulf International Convention and Exhibition Centre of Gulf Hotel.
He said that the school-health and the student screening programmes as well as massive education campaigns under way are contributing towards the goal.
"Bahrain has the advantage of size and efficient programmes that simplify the issue," He said that the only way out of this is an efficient education programme, pre-marital-counselling and an exhaustive programme to screen schoolchildren.
Teebi served as head of section for clinical genetics and dysmorphology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto before he moved to Saudi Arabia.
"The situation is pretty much the same all over the world but the Arab world seems to be more prone to it because of marriages between cousins," Teebi said. "Between 30 and 70 per cent of marriages are between cousins in Bahrain and about half of these are between first cousins.
"This aggravates the problem when there's a good chance that at least one of the children, if not more, will be affected by some kind of genetic disease.
"A law to mandate genetic screening for couples intending to marry is one way to prevent it," he said.
Teebi said that a certificate that the couples intending to marry should be made compulsory as a proof that they have been counselled by the clergyman solemnising the marriage.
"Whether they want to get married or not after having been counselled is their decision but at least they would've been told about the risk."
Conference President and Head of the genetic department at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, Dr Shaikha Al Arayyed, said that there had been a marked decrease in the incidence of these diseases in the Kingdom following effective steps taken by all concerned.
"The incidence 18 years ago was 2.1 per cent of the population, declining to 1.3 per cent in 1999. The figure fell further to one per cent in 2001 and 1.09 per cent in 2002," she said.
Dr Al Arrayed said that the number of students and schools involved in the campaign had also been growing over the years. "We screened 6,200 students in 2000, 6,500 in 2001 and 6,800 last year."
Last update on: 7-10-2003