Genetic birth defects a serious global problem

8 February 2006

A global survey of serious genetic conditions has reported that almost eight million children worldwide are born with a serious genetic defect each year; many of these will die in early childhood and of those who survive, many more will be mentally and physically disabled.

The March of Dimes Global Report on Birth Defects: The Hidden Toll of Dying and Disabled Children, which is based on information on single-gene disorders, chromosomal disorders and physical malformations from 193 countries, found that overall around 6% of babies are born with a serious genetic or partially genetic defect, the vast majority in poorer countries. This is due to a range of factors including an increased incidence of consanguineous marriage, childbearing at relatively advanced maternal ages and a much higher rate of carrier status for certain genetic mutations where malaria is endemic (carrier status for the mutations associated with haemoglobinopathies and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency confers protection against malaria).

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