Thalassemia Prevention Program Successful
Iran’s thalassemia prevention program has been one of the most successful programs globally, preventing the birth of thalassemic babies, said Dr. Ali Akbar Sayyari, deputy minister of health and medical education.
A law on compulsory health check before marriage adopted recently in parliament has significantly reduced the number of babies born with the blood disorder. According to the law, specific genetic testing before marriage is mandatory.
While most children are born healthy, however, in every pregnancy, even where there is no family history, there is a small risk (about 3%) that a child may be born with a disease or defect. It is impossible to prevent all defects; nevertheless, since some defects are hereditary, the aim of familial and genetic investigation is to identify at-risk couples, and to provide them with the appropriate genetic counseling, Mehr News Agency reported.
Sayyari said at present there is no association for children born with Down’s syndrome. Annually 200-300 mentally retarded children are born in the country. “To prevent this we are developing a program which will help prevent 50 to 70 % of defective births.”
The age of the mother is also related to the high possibility of the syndrome in a child; a 35-year old woman has about a one in 350 chances of conceiving a child with the genetic disorder, and this increases gradually to 1 in 100 by age 40. At age 45 the risk becomes approximately 1 in 30.
Sayyari also pointed to hemophilia and said currently the disease imposes large costs on the country; “therefore we are also developing a plan for its prevention as it is preventable to a large extent.” Hemophilia is a rare disorder in which blood doesn’t clot normally because it lacks sufficient blood-clotting proteins (clotting factors).
The health ministry’s four main objectives include justice, expanding people’s cooperation, cross-section cooperation and using inexpensive and effective technology to treat diseases.