Minister of Health Inspects Pre-marriage Central Lab in Sharjah

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WAM Sharjah, 1st May 2010 (WAM) — His Excellency Dr. Hanif Hassan, UAE Minister of Health, inspected the pre-marriage central lab in Sharjah and viewed the functions of the laboratory tests and its preparations for receiving and operating modern equipments to be provided to the laboratory in the near future.

He was accompanied by Dr. Salem Al Darmaki, Acting Director General, Dr. Mahmood Fikri, Executive Director for Health Policies and Ahmed Al Nuaimi, Acting Director of Primary Healthcare Central Administration.

He was briefed about the progress of work in the laboratory and the required services for pre-marriage test results in order to avoid infectious and genetic diseases as well as the reviewed steps starting from receiving samples, drawing conclusions and identifying the development sizes of equipments and devices in addition to the future plans of upgrading the services of the laboratory.

“We assure the importance of correcting misconceptions among the public about genetic diseases and emphasize our efforts in answering their questions in a scientific and credibility manner through clinical testing and counseling. The Ministry also seeks to implement the goals of the program in order to help society members avoid physiological, financial and physical burdens for having children with genetic diseases”, His Excellency elaborated.

Furthermore, Dr. Nora Al Suwaidi, Director of pre-marriage tests at the Ministry of Health, emphasized the importance of pre-marriage tests as they prevent more than 60% of congenital malformations and 100% of genetic diseases such as thalassemia and cell anemia.

Dr. Al Suwaidi stated that the tests reduce transmission of infectious diseases from one member to another through early detection and treatment and protect the fetus from these diseases too. Unfortunately, such diseases may lead to either the death of babies, mental disabilities or birth defects. Hence, the costs of caring for these children are approximately AED 3 million during his/her lifetime.

The adopted tests at the central laboratory include: genetic blood disease including blood type; rhesus factor disease, beta thalassemia, cell disease, hemoglobin in addition to other infectious and sexually transmitted diseases such as: AIDS, viral hepatitis B, viral hepatitis C, sexually transmitted diseases between spouses (syphilis), and immunization against German measles for women.

Furthermore, Dr. Mahmood Fikri, Executive Director for Health Policies at the UAE Ministry of Health, explained that the services provided by the testing program include information about genetic family medical history, blood tests, counseling sessions for needed cases and other information vaccinations especially German measles and hepatitis B.

He said: “There are 10 centers or clinics which provide testing services all over the UAE. We are also working on the addition of new advanced equipments to the central laboratory and provision of integrated services in order to establish it as a referential center for genetic diseases tests in the country”.

Dr. Fikri added that the program trains medical and technical staff of the testing and counseling clinics on the methods of conducting personal interviews with couples wishing to get married and making the necessary medical tests. “In future time, all testing centers will be connected electronically with a direct link to the Ministry of Health and health authorities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai”, he concluded.

Statistics of the Center for Arab Genomic Studies for November 2007 indicated that the number of genetic diseases in the UAE reached 240 diseases of which: 82 caused by inbreeding marriages, while 26% of the relative marriages are of first degree. The testing procedures and medical tests approved by the UAE Ministry of Health contributed to the detection of some cases that could have led to unexpected genetic diseases yet they have been treated positively and the marriage steps have been completed.

According to the latest statistics between January and December 2009, around 19.285 people of which 10.956 locals conducted the pre-marriage tests. The tests indicated that 1113 local and expatriate cases were discovered as genetic blood diseases including: beta thalassemia, anemia, E,D and C hemoglobin differences and other blood diseases.

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