Docs call for premarital tests
Dedicated thalassaemia clinic at hospital
Esplanade: Thalassaemia tests should be mandatory before marriage to prevent the hereditary disease from spreading, according to doctors.
"An apparently normal couple can have a child with thalassaemia if they are carriers," Soumya Bhattacharya, haemato-oncologist with Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, said.
Carriers often go undetected because there are no obvious symptoms. "But whether one is a carrier can be found out through simple blood tests... that is why the disease can be prevented," Bhattacharya said.
In India, the disease is still spreading with 10,000 new patients every year because people don't go for screenings, he said. Most are from the east.
He cited the example of Cyprus, which had a large population of thalassaemics till the 1970s.
The country has become almost free of the disease by making screenings mandatory before marriage, he said.
Bhattacharya was speaking at the Press Club on Tuesday to mark the launch of a "comprehensive thalassemia clinic" at Apollo Gleneagles.
The clinic will have premarital and prenatal screening facilities and blood transfusion and bone marrow transplant facilities.
Thalassaemia is of two types - minor and major. Those who are minor are carriers of the disease but don't need any particular treatment.
Those who are thalassaemia major need blood transfusion and treatment for allied ailments.
"Various groups have been trying to spread word for years that thalassaemia tests before marriage is more important than matching horoscopes," Shilpa Bhartia, haemato-oncologist, said.
"But more awareness is needed... that is evident from the number of new patients," she said.
Both said the government should get involved and make thalassaemia tests mandatory for Class X board exams, which would automatically spread awareness about the disease.
"The easiest way to spread awareness is to get the message across to school students... and the government's support is needed," Anupam Chakrapani, the bone marrow transplant coordinator at Apollo Gleneagles, said.
Thalassaemia tests could be made mandatory for issuing driving licences, he said. This and other such measures will make sure more people go for the tests, he said.