The Children’s Hospital of Lahore performs genetic tests and surveys on children suffering from various diseases across Pakistan.
The Kidney and Liver Department of Lahore Children’s Hospital organized an awareness seminar on February 29th in connection with World Rare Diseases Day.
It is the only institution in Pakistan that provides free genetic tests for children suffering from fatal diseases.
Recently, the institution conducted genetic testing on two thousand families from across the province.
The genetic testing revealed that alarmingly high rates of genetic diseases occur in children born as a result of marriages within the family or caste community.
Children’s Hospital Professor Dr Huma Arshad Cheema estimates that 60 to 70 percent of children suffering from various diseases have inherited them.
According to the report, most children suffering from diseases were those whose parents married within the same family or the same caste community.
In general, in Punjab, more children from Aryan, Rajput, Baloch and Jat communities were found to have hereditary diseases. Still, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, those children from Peshawar, Malakand and Waziristan were more affected, where family marriages are common.
Genes are believed to transmit fatal diseases like heart disease, kidney failure, liver disease and dementia.
In an interview given to Independent Urdu, Dr Huma Arshad Cheema said that the transfer of fatal diseases to children through genes has increased to an alarming extent, and the death rate of children due to these diseases has also reached 60 per cent.
The parents of child brides should undergo a mandatory genetic test before arranging a marriage to ensure their children do not inherit their genes, says Dr Huma.
He further said that he and his team took blood samples from the siblings, parents and other blood relatives of children suffering from fatal diseases under treatment, which showed those who died from the disease at the age of one year. In most children, the disease was transmitted from the parents.
The collection of medical details of families would allow rapid diagnosis of hereditary diseases in children, according to him.
Genetic problems and remedial measures
Controlling the increasing number of fatal diseases in children through genetics has become inevitable in Pakistan.
Dr Huma Arshad Cheema says that she has sent recommendations to the health department twice on this issue that no significant hospital in Pakistan does genetic testing. At the same time, only treatment facilities are provided upon diagnosis of the disease.
He said that patients from remote areas have to come to Children Hospital Lahore for genetic tests from all over the country, and these tests cost six to eight lakh rupees, so no hospital is serious about building this type of lab.
In an attempt to separate Punjab from the rest of the country, Dr Huma has proposed the establishment of an Institute of Research and Genetics Center in Lahore.