Govt developing institute of genetics: Yasmin

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Punjab government is developing an institute of genetics, said Minister for Health Dr Yasmin Rashid at a symposium on genetics matters to everyone held at Annemarie Schimmel Haus.

Child Health Institute Punjab is collaborating with Arsensus in this regard, a world-class digital healthcare and genetic diagnostics company that hosted the event. “Collaborations can benefit a lot. On May 1, 1994, we diagnosed the first thalassemia major baby. We had excellent collaboration with Leads University at that time. Collaborations can benefit a lot,” the health minister said. Dr Yasmin Rashid, who is general secretary Thalassemia Federation, initiated thalassemia prevention project in 2010. “We have the largest prevention programme in the entire world – in all the 36 districts of Punjab,” she said.

Anybody about to marry should go through genetic testing, she said, and appealed to people to put an end to cousin marriage.

Genetic diseases are responsible for 50 percent of deaths before the age of one year in Pakistan, said Prof Dr Masood Sadiq, Vice Chancellor University of Child Health Sciences, Children’s Hospital. He gave a presentation on Children’s Hospital and Genetics and said that PC1 of the Institute of Genetics has been passed.

No centre existed for a physician to access genetic diagnosis except thalassemia in Pakistan, he said.

“In 2013, we launched free enzyme testing. We have done 28,000 tests in Children’s Hospital by now where 1500-2000 children are admitted at one time and get 100 percent free treatment.

The Germans, when they come to Children’s Hospital, work from eight in the morning till midnight,” he said. He proposed a degree course in genetics.

Dr Huma Cheema from the Children’s Hospital gave a presentation on ‘How genetic diagnosis enables the pathway to a healthy future’.

She thanked Dr Sajid Maqbool, mentioned his research in neo-natal health and thanked other heads of The Children’s Hospital in providing an enabling environment. She shared that in a population of 220 million, mother mortality rate (MMR) is 56,888 per 100,000 live births. “Consanguineous marriages are a silent pandemic in Pakistan. We are not teaching our students about genetics. This is the first government to take the step to establish a genetics’ diseases centre.

The biggest breakthrough in collaboration is with the German partners. Access to diagnosis and treatment is important and also, handing over all information to the parents,” she said. She underlined the importance of pre-natal testing and CVS which is a prenatal test that involves taking a sample of tissue from the placenta to test for chromosomal abnormalities and certain other genetic problems.

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