Strategies to Decrease the Incidence of Genetic Disorders in Arab Countries
Keywords:Genetic diseases, Arabs, consanguineous marriages, premarital counseling, preconception counseling, prenatal diagnosis, termination of pregnancy, Islam, medical ethics
Genetic disorders are responsible for a significant proportion of perinatal morbidity, mortality, infant deaths, and handicaps. Their incidence in Arab countries is higher than in the developed world. This is attributed to ethnic diversity, consanguineous marriages, large family size, advanced maternal and paternal age, lack of resources that deal specifically with genetic diseases, lack of public awareness of the significance of genetic disease, reluctance of couples to receive preconception counseling and prenatal diagnosis, and religious and cultural concepts related to causation and dealing with diagnosed malformations.
Suggested strategies to reduce the incidence of genetic diseases include: (1) public education, specifically about the role of consanguineous marriages and the correction of religious misconceptions; (2) providing premarital counseling services, family-oriented carrier screening, and family planning services; (3) improving preconception and prenatal care to include prenatal diagnostic services; (4) augmenting genetic services resources to include the human as well as lab components; (5) neonatal screening for metabolic disorders; (6) providing preimplantation genetic diagnosis services; (7) establishing databases of cases of genetic diseases; and (8) establishing ethical and religious guidelines for prenatal genetic diagnosis and for termination of pregancies complicated by fetal genetic diseases or malformations.
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