Health minister: Malaysia needs more geneticists to detect thalassaemia early

Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba speaks during an event in Putrajaya August 14, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba speaks during an event in Putrajaya August 14, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 25 — The country needs more geneticists to detect thalassaemia patients at an early stage, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.

He said this could simultaneously control and prevent thalassaemia, especially those who had the carrier trait, among the community.

‘’Thalassaemia can actually be prevented if we can detect the carriers at an early stage. If these carriers get married, it is possible that some of their children will develop thalassemia. So we do not want this to happen.

“Therefore, we need to produce experts in the field of genetics to detect or prevent before they (carriers) get married or get pregnant. So, I encourage universities to produce more graduates in genetic studies,” he said.

He said this after launching the 2019 Malaysia Thalassaemia Registry (MTR) report at Tunku Azizah Hospital here today.

If thalassaemia carriers including thalassaemia major, still wanted to get married or get pregnant, the ministry would provide survival instructions such as stem cells transplant, blood transfusions and bone marrow transplant for a longer lifespan, explained Dr Adham.

Thalassaemia major is a disease caused by genetic factors when red blood cells (hemoglobin) do not function normally and patients need blood transfusions every three or four weeks to ensure that the number of blood cells are at a sufficient level.

He said the ministry was constantly monitoring including conducting tests on thalassaemia patients to obtain the latest data to assist them in the aspects of prevention and treatment.

“According to the MTR report, there are 8,178 thalassaemia patients until October 2019 and we use this data to identify and help them use the technological sophistication and innovation available,” he said.

Earlier in his speech, Dr Adham said MTR had successfully mapped the geographical distribution for the thalassaemia diagnosed category among the multi-ethnic population in the country as well as helped policy makers in the ministry plan and monitor thalassaemia programmes.

He said Malaysia’s success in thalassaemia treatment had impacted on the increasing cost of medical services and therefore the importance of emphasis on the preventive aspect through screening tests for the detection of thalassaemia carriers.

“No country can afford to maintain a national programme like this if new thalassaemia birth cases are not curbed as this will result in increased costs in the health sector. Therefore, prevention should be emphasised,” he added. — Bernama


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