POST TIME: 22 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 21 June, 2019 11:24:35 PM
Thalassaemia is an inherited blood disorder characterised by less hemoglobin and fewer red blood cells in body compared to normal level. It is estimated that about 7,000 to 14,000 children are born with the disorder in the country every year. Although the number is staggering, awareness of the disease is very poor. In a three-part series, The Independent looks into the present status of real-time statistics of thalassaemia patients, existing arrangements for treatment and cost, and experts’ opinion on how to prevent the disease. Today’s report is the third and concluding installment
Blood test before marriage key to avoiding thalassaemia
Rafiqul Islam Azad, Dhaka

Blood test before marriage key to avoiding thalassaemia

Creating social awareness about thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder characterised by abnormal hemoglobin production, is a must as there is easy and permanent treatment as well as preventive vaccination for the disease, say health experts. They suggest that it is important to perform a blood test before getting married to restrict the number of thalassaemia carriers and patients.

Thalassaemia is an autosomal recessive blood disorder. It is passed down to children through parents' genes and causes destruction of red blood cells, affecting the formation of haemoglobin in the body. So, young people should be inspired to conduct blood tests before getting married to prevent this genetically inherited disease.

The experts also emphasised carrying out prenatal diagnosis to resist possible inherited blood disorders of the child. A thalassaemia carrier alone cannot inherit the disease; it can only be inherited by the child if his/her parents carry the gene. About 25 per cent of children are likely to be born as thalassaemia patients if their parents carry the mutated thalassaemia gene, while other 25 per cent children may be born completely normal and healthy. The rest are likely to be the carrier of this genetically disease, according to the Bangladesh Thalassaemia Foundation.

Lack of proper medical training and absence of necessary curricula for medical students are behind the inability to efficiently handle thalassaemia patients. Dr Manzur Morshed, adviser of the Bangladesh Thalassaemia Foundation, suggested that the government to use marriage registrars, religious scholars and teachers in creating awareness about the inheritance of thalassaemia by carrier couples. In European countries, priests ask the bride and bridegroom to test their blood to ensure that both are not thalassaemia carriers to check the disease. "In our country, kazis (marriage registrars) can assume the same role," he added.

He also said pre-marital blood test is mandatory in many countries such as Cyprus, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Iran to check the increase of this disease.

Dr Md Selimuzzaman, head of the haematology and oncology department of Dhaka Shishu Hospital, said the government should take measures for screening bloods at the school level. He also said media, Islamic scholars and teachers can play a vital role in creating awareness about thalassaemia.

Dr Syeda Masuma Rahman, vice-chairman of the Bangladesh Thalassaemia Foundation, said a person can easily avoid passing down the disease to the child by testing his/her own blood before getting married. If a thalassaemia carrier gets married to a non-carrier, there is no risk of passing down the disease to their children. So, a non-carrier can get married to a carrier without any risk to their children, she added.

Dr Masuma Rahman said a thalassaemia carrier should not be stigmatised. Rather, it should be checked that both husband and wife are not the carriers, she added.

Dr Noor Mohammed, director (non-communicable diseases) of the Directorate General of Health Services, said they would take special measures from the next fiscal year to create awareness among people across the country. “We would organise seminars at district, upazila and community clinic levels with support groups by taking doctors, nurses, imams, teachers, journalists and civil society people,” he added.