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From left: Dr Annette Gruters Kieslich, Professor of Paediatrics, Dean of the Charite University, Berlin; Dr Walter Rosenthal, Scientific Director of the Max Delbruck Centre for Medicine, Berlin; Dr Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Thani, Director of the Public Health Department, Supreme Council of Health; Dr Tawfeg Ben Omran, Senior Consultant and Head of the Metabolic Genetic Unit, Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar; and Prof Gunther Wess, Molecular Immunolgist and Diabetologist, CEO and Scientific Director, Helmhotz Zentrum Munchem, Germany, at a conference in Doha yesterday. Salim Matramkot
By Isabel Ovalle
DOHA: A senior health official has called for screening of newborns to be made mandatory in Qatar to prevent diseases and save lives.
This screening, which consists of a simple blood test, should be done within 24 to 72 hours after birth.
During a symposium on Neonatal Screening of Genetic Diseases and Child Development organised by Sidra, Dr Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Thani, Director of the Public Health Department at the Supreme Council of Health, said that neonatal screening should be mandated for all newborns in every hospital and relevant medical facility in Qatar.
“This screening process can help to combat and prevent illnesses that are prevalent in our country, such as diabetes, metabolic disorders, hypothyroidism, and jaundice,” he said.
He concluded that “this simple procedure can create a healthier society, helping parents and families to understand and implement straight forward lifestyle choices that can prevent the child from developing these diseases later in life. I would very much like to see a national programme from the Supreme Council of Health to ensure that all newborns are given the best start possible in life.”
Dr Tawfeg Ben Omran, senior consultant and head of the Metabolic Genetic Unit at Hamad Medical Corporation, also at the Symposium, explained that endogamy is common cause of Genetic Metabolic Disorders in Qatar (and other Arab countries), given that the frequent isolated subpopulations and tribal groups lead to a high level of consanguinity.
The fact that prenatal diagnosis is generally not acceptable and legal restrictions on medical abortion, have contributed as well to the increased frequencies of genetic disorders in the region.
The Qatar Neonatal Screening Programme has had a nine year run, screening an average of 20,000 babies a year.
Dr Ben Omran said that the objective of this population based programme is to identify disorders in neonates that, if undetected, would lead to mental retardation or have life-threatening consequences and have successful treatment available.
Among genetic disorders, the most common in Qatar is Classical Homocystinuria, which affects over 20 percent of newborns.
Classical Homocystinuria is a multisystem disease that affects the vascular system, the skeletal system, the eyes and the central nervous system.
The total number of newborns tested for Classical Homocystinuria from December 2003 to September 2012 was 111,713, of which 40,496 were Qatari.
The incidence of this disorder is 0.26 per 1,000 for the general population, and one in 1,500 among Qatari newborns.