Screening to prevent incidence thalassemia and State support for treatment sought

Screening of all pregnant women in early stages should be taken up a in a big way to prevent the incidence of thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder, which is increasing in the State, according to Dr. Suman Jain, secretary of Thalassemia and Sickle Society, Hyderabad.

Talking to The Hindu, she said the incidence was growing and every year 500 to 600 children were being born in the State with the disorder.

It could be totally prevented if there was awareness among the people, said Dr. Suman, who is a paediatrician.

If the pregnant woman was found to carry hbA2 gene, then her husband should also be screened and if both were carriers of the trait, they should be counselled as there was 25 per cent of chance for the child to be a thalassemia major if both the parents were carriers of the gene.

Dr. Suman wanted the government to install the required equipment in every district hospital to take up screening for detection of carriers. As many as 1,781 cases have been registered so far with the society which runs a blood bank for providing blood to thalassemia patients. With each child affected with thalassemia requiring regular blood transfusion and drugs for iron chelation costing from Rs.2,000 to Rs.10,000 a month, she urged the government to support the patients through Aarogyasri scheme.

Medical Oncologist at Apollo hospitals, Dr. Srinivas Chakravarthi too agreed with the suggestion that government should step in with a support programme under Arogyasri scheme.Unless, there was a comprehensive support programme, it would be quite expensive.

He said that bone marrow transplantation, if a match was available, was a cheaper option than life-time transfusion and it was potentially curable. While bone marrow transplantation would cost around Rs.10 lakhs, it would be nearly Rs.25 lakh for blood transfusion for life time and iron chelation. He said that about 80 per cent of children could be cured of thalassemia through bone transplantation although it was a high risk procedure.

He said screening for hbA2 in the general population in areas where the incidence was more like Nizamabad-Karimnagar belt in the State. Elsewhere, peripheral blood smear should be done to find indications for thalassemia.

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