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Thursday, January 22, 1998 Published at 16:08 GMT


Asian population warned about blood disorder
image: [ Prospective parents are being urged to take a simple blood test ]
Prospective parents are being urged to take a simple blood test

The UK's Asian communities are being alerted to the dangers of thalassaemia, a genetic blood disorder.

One in seven Asians is a carrier of the faulty gene which damages the body's red blood cells. Sufferers need a blood transfusion every three or four weeks, and with no known cure early death is common.

The UK Thalassaemia Society (UKTA) has launched the first campaign to raise awareness of the condition. A recent survey showed that only 5% of Asians in the country had any knowledge of the disorder even though nearly 80% of all thalassaemia births are in Asian families.

The UKTA blames a lack of urgency and effort on the part of public health bodies for the low level of awareness. Dr Nitin Lakhani, the President of UKTS, said: "We need urgently to address this issue. Parents need to be informed in advance of a pregnancy and be able to make an informed choice about prevention."

The society is promoting an inexpensive test to alert carriers of the faulty gene. A couple who both have one copy of the recessive gene show no ill effects themselves.

But they do have slightly smaller red blood cells than normal which can be picked up by simple screening. There is a one in four chance that any child of two carriers will develop the full-blown condition.

Thalassaemia patients will each cost the National Health Service about 1 million if they reach 30 years of age.

The transfusions are needed to control raised iron levels in the blood which, if left untreated, can result in heart failure, liver disease, stunted growth and other hormonal problems.

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Internet Links

Thalassaemia OnLine

Thalassaemia Action Group

Joint Center for Sickle Cell and Thalassemic Disorders

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