Staff Reporter

Blood testing and counselling of 2.6 lakh students to be done

Kolkata: With a view to spreading awareness about thalassaemia among students in its attempts to obliterate the disease from the city by 2015, a city-based cancer research institute has launched a new campaign that would entail blood testing and counselling of about 2.6 lakh school and college students over the next five years.

Titled “Zero Thalassaemia Growth Rate in Kolkata by 2015”, the project is supported by the Kolkata Police, Rotary Club and Medical Bank and was kicked off on Saturday, World Thalassaemia Day.

According to Ashish Mukhopadhyay, Medical Director of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Cancer Research Institute, about 10 per cent of Kolkata's population are thalassaemia carriers and the number can multiply in geometric progression unless marriage between two thalassaemia carriers is prevented.

“The project will target the section of youth who will be of marriageable age by 2015. We have identified 260 schools and colleges in the metropolitan area where our teams will visit twice a week to collect blood samples of every student. If found positive, those students will be advised not to marry another thalassaemia carrier in future,” said Dr. Ghosh.

The estimated cost of the project is Rs. 50 lakh. Dr. Ghosh said he has also applied for funds from the ICMR. Referring to a recent ICMR study that has pointed to the high occurrence level of thalassaemia carriers in West Bengal, possibly due to the prevalence of consanguineous marriages, he said the State currently houses 17 per cent of the country's total thalassaemia carrier population and the number is increasing by 2,500 persons every year. Pointing out that Cyprus, which once reported the highest number of thalassaemia cases in the world, has brought the number to nil by effective awareness programmes and control, Dr. Ghosh hoped that both the State Government and the Centre will soon adopt a similar approach. “The moot point is that undergoing a blood test before marriage is much more important than matching of horoscopes,” said Kolkata Police's Special Additional Commissioner Debashis Roy.