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Tue 6 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Call for national newborn screening plan

Genetics experts have called for a national policy and standards for the screening of newborns, in view of the high prevalence of genetics disorders seen in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Genetics experts have called for a national policy and standards for the screening of newborns, in view of the high prevalence of genetics disorders seen in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Data from the Dubai-based Centre for Arab Genomic Studies (CAGS) shows that the country has 250 unique genetic disorders, up to 50 of which can be identified at birth.

The call for a national newborn screening programme was made by Dr Mahmoud Taleb, director of CAGS, at the Dubai International Conference for Medical Sciences, last month.

"Prevalence of genetic diseases is very high in the UAE compared to the rest of the world. It also puts a lot of burden on the government financially. We need to prepare strategies with a special focus on genetics," Dr Taleb told delegates.

At present newborn screening programmes take place within private and pubic sector hospital but there is no national requirement or standard on what tests should be carried out.

Figures from CAGS, which collates data from genetic research carried out in Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, show there are a total of 451 disorders in these three countries.

Of these 119 are "deadly", according to Dr Ghazi Omar Tadmouri, assistant director of CAGS. "By the time these diseases are reported, those patients have died in the first hours, or days, or weeks, or in their early years."

The only nationally fronted screening campaign in the UAE at present covers pre-marital screening for thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia.

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