cousin marriage is wreaking havoc on people’s health
Pakistan ranks first in the number of marriages between blood relatives. With an estimated 14-16 million people suffering from genetic disorders. And 1.6 million mutations were discovered in the country. In Pakistan, consanguine marriages account for 73% of all marriages. And the country has the world’s biggest population of deaf children.
Prof Dr Arndt Rolfs, a German neurologist and psychiatrist, presented a talk on consanguinity in Pakistan. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Germany.
Cousin marriage playing havoc with health in Pakistan. 14-16 million people suffering from genetic diseases. Country has the largest community of deaf children. Cousin marriage should be treated as a health crisis https://t.co/zXaXnHiVkx— faraz (@faraz_lhr) November 6, 2021
More than 55,000 patients, he claimed, require immediate attention. Dr Arndt Rolfs, a biotech scientist and multi-entrepreneur. Has diagnosed over 15,000 individuals with genetic illnesses in Lahore alone. And claims that a growing number of diseases may be treated. He said “This is post-genomic era. Technology has massively improved. Five years back the diagnosis cost $15,000, now it costs $5,000. In the time it will cost 100-120 USD,” There are diseases that can be cured for less than $5, he added. “Patients have to pay for the tests in Pakistan and they are burdened. By a delay in the diagnosis for about six to eight years,” He stated and emphasised the need for early detection. In Pakistan, metabolic illnesses are the most prevalent. They happen more frequently now than they did in 2000.
He has advocated that a rare illness centre be established in Lahore to address genetic ailments. He wants the structure to come to the patients, rather than the other way around. People from Pakistan now travel thousands of kilometres to visit him. A genetic lab for diagnostics and a genetic counselling section staffed. By human geneticists will be part of the proposed rare illness centre.
Because of marriages within blood relations, 14-16 million people are suffering from genetic diseases and 1.6 million mutations have been found in Pakistan. With 73% consanguine marriages in Pakistan, we have the largest community of deaf children.https://t.co/jdvjQxwmV0— Sadaf Alvi (@TheGrumpyDoctor) November 7, 2021
“80-90 percent of the diagnostics prescribed by doctors in Pakistan are unnecessary. Which is only burning money. Seventy percent of birth defects can be prevented due to genetic services. There is no genetic testing infrastructure (no diagnostic labs and genetic expertise) in Pakistan.”
Pakistan has around 4 million births per year. “Most births do not receive newborn screening which costs less than 10 USD. “A newborn’s blood is taken from the heel and different tests can be conducted but there is no systematic newborn screening here. Systematic newborn screening is a standard practice in the world. We need to start that,” he said.
Dr Arndt Rolfs founded Arcensus, a digital health. And a genomics start-up that empowers people to take control of their own health. Arceus is a digital service based on Whole Genome Sequencing that is trusted, secure, and thorough (WGS). In 2005, the corporation operated in over 100 countries. He stated he was the company’s CEO for 14 years until handing it on to younger people in 2018.
He stressed the need for education and awareness in combating the problem. He claims that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are efficiently combating the problem. “We have to educate doctors and patients. We are focusing on changing the mentality of doctors,” he said.
His research is primarily conducted in Lahore. Although he has also conducted research in Peshawar, Multan. And Islamabad, and will soon travel to Karachi. He stated that more guys were brought to him for examinations, whereas the number of girls was lower.
Pakistan must put a ban on cousin marriage, this needs to be done immediately or risk a major crises https://t.co/SSrjNrrjZb— Ali🦉 (@JholayLal110) November 6, 2021
“National registries are very important to understand genetic diseases but no national registry is available in Pakistan. Genome sequencing is doable,” He said He presented a list of the top ten curable hereditary illnesses.
Six years ago, the Genomic England Project began. The pharmaceutical industry is the most interested in the information. Genomic sequencing is free for everyone in the UK. Thanks to funding from pharmaceutical companies.
In Israel, consanguine marriages are on the decline because, according to the rabbis, “You don’t have my blessings’. If people have the same gene, the risk increases of being one in four. Everything starts from informed knowledge, he said.
According to him, a WHO study estimates that the country loses 18-20 USD each year owing to hereditary illnesses. He claims that this sum is greater than what is spent on cancer and COVID combined. It has to be the most important issue in Pakistan.