Speakers at a seminar on the incidence of genetic diseases in Pakistan and their prevention underscored the need for prenatal testing and molecular diagnostic labs to reduce genetic disorders among the population. The seminar titled 'the Incidence of Hereditary Diseases in Pakistan, Prevention through Awareness' was organized by the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Khyber Medical University (KMU) Peshawar in collaboration with Dosti Welfare Organization. Doctors and genetic diseases researchers from across the country and the province participated in the one-day seminar.
In his presentation on genetics and genomics, Dr. Musharraf Jelani, Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Omic Sciences, Islamia College University Peshawar, said that statistical data shows rare diseases are not rare in Pakistan. He added that 99 percent of genetic disorders were incurable; however, some management of the patients could happen. Dr. Jelani suggested that molecular diagnostic labs needed to be established in all parts of the country to reduce the incidence of rare genetic diseases.
Maj Gen Prof. Dr. Suhaib Ahmed, in his presentation on prenatal diagnosis of genetic disorders, stated that prenatal diagnosis was a proven method to prevent genetic disorders. He said that it could help us in choosing a healthy individual. Professor Ahmed said that the introduction of prenatal diagnosis in the Mediterranean region in the mid-1970s and early 1980s helped dramatically reduce the incidence of thalassemia in the region.
In his presentation, Dr Fawadul Qamar, head of clinical oncology at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital Peshawar, described the cancer genetics. He said that 85 percent of cancer was sporadic, 10 percent was familial, and only 5 percent hereditary. Dr. Qamar also stressed the importance of genetic counseling for parents.
Dr. Najibullah Khan, associate professor of the Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering at the University of Agriculture Peshawar, presented his findings on breast cancer genetics in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said that fear, shame, ignorance, and reliance on faith healers and herbal medicines were to blame for the delayed diagnosis of breast cancer in the province.
Dr. Yassar Youafzai, director of KMU Public Health Reference Lab, discussed the genetics of alpha Thalassemia in Pakistan. At the same time, Dr. Hafsah Muhammad's talk focused on the genetics of mental and behavioral disorders linked with anti-social behaviors among individuals suffering from these conditions.
In the closing session the vice-chancellor KMU applauded the efforts of the Dosti Welfare Organization and its founding member Dr. Munir Ahmad a KMC graduate, instrumental in putting about two hundred thousand children on the path of education and starting the Dr. Zakia Minhas Award worth USD 5000 annually for Best Medical Graduate of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Special Secretary Health, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mr. Abidullah Kakakhel, graced the event as the chief guest. In his remarks, he said that KMU was the provincial government platform for conducting medical research in 2007. He underscored the importance of research and awareness in reducing the incidence of genetic disorders in Pakistan.He said that genetic disorders were causing great distress to affected families, and their incidence could be reduced through research and awareness. At the end of the seminar, there was a certificate distribution among the speakers, volunteers, and event organizers.