Sultanate has high rates of inherited blood disorders

By Zainab Al Nasseri — MUSCAT: April 4 – Proving their gains, blood donation campaigns contribute 60 per cent of blood units that go to hospitals and sub-clinics aiming at saving hundreds of lives, according to Department of Blood Bank Services at the Ministry of Health. The department urged citizens and residents to donate blood by not only visiting blood banks, but also by arranging donation campaigns in work places and outdoor activities. The constant need for donors comes from the fact that the Sultanate has quite large numbers of patients with blood disorders. The Ministry of Health records show that 75 per cent of patients visiting healthcare institutions have blood inherited disorders which are mainly Sickle Cell Disease, Thalassemia, and Glucose-6-phosphatase dehydrogenase (G6PD) Deficiency.
According to Oman Hereditary Disorder Association (OHDA), 10 per cent of the Omani population carries a gene, at least, of one dangerous blood disorders.
Figures show that 2 per cent of total citizens are Beta Thalassemia traits, while 0.07 per cent infected. Yet, there are 50 per cent of Omani population carries Alfa Thalassemia, which is a blood disorder that reduces the production of hemoglobin; the iron-containing protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body. This disease is seen the most in Batinah North, Muscat and Dhakhlyia.
For Sickle cell anemia, it exists mostly in Al Sharqiyah North, Al Dhakhiliyah, Muscat, Al Batinah South and Musandam. Sickle traits stood at 6 per cent out of total population, majority of them are children below 5 years. However, 2 per cent of the citizens are diseased.
Moreover, the latest study in the Sultanate showed that G6PD is very common in society. It is rated at 17.9 per cent more frequently among children aged below 5 years (25 per cent with males and 10 per cent with females).
Having these scary data growing among society, the Ministry of Health makes efforts to detect causes and try to eliminate them. “Pre-marital screening appeared to be the smart step to avoid having more blood-diseased patients. Couples are advised to do checkup before marriages to protect their future children from genetic-related health problems,” a health provider at a local polyclinic said.
Besides the financial burden abided by the government to treat blood disorders, that reached RO 45 million in 2014 as NCSI data mentioned, it is also a psychological and social burden where the diseased would need more care and attention from parents.
A mother to a three-year child with Thalassemia said “we go to hospital every single month for blood feeding for my son. It has been like this since he was six months old. I got married to my cousin without knowing that we both carry this disease. Now we have to find the best ways of treatment to guarantee that he lives a normal life like his counterparts”.
The ministry confirmed that pre-martial checkup procedures take only few minutes and results revealed within a short period.
The targeted category are diseases traits which in many cases are not symptomatic, since they live normal lives and likely wouldn’t consider testing. In fact, if the disease trait and the infected married, there is 25 to 50 per cent chance of having diseased children.