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J Community Genet. 2011 Dec;2(4):201-9. doi: 10.1007/s12687-011-0057-x. Epub 2011 Jul 15.

Tay-Sachs disease preconception screening in Australia: self-knowledge of being an Ashkenazi Jew predicts carrier state better than does ancestral origin, although there is an increased risk for c.1421 + 1G > C mutation in individuals with South African heritage.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen Elizabeth II Research Institute for Mothers and Infants, University of Sydney NSW 2006, Sydney, Australia,


The Australasian Community Genetics Program provided a preconception screening for Tay-Sachs disease (TSD) to 4,105 Jewish high school students in Sydney and Melbourne over the 12-year period 1995-2007. By correlating the frequencies of mutant HEXA, MIM *606869 (gene map locus 15q23-q24) alleles with subjects' nominated ethnicity (Ashkenazi/Sephardi/Mixed) and grandparental birthplaces, we established that Ashkenazi ethnicity is a better predictor of TSD carrier status than grandparental ancestral origins. Screening self-identified Ashkenazi subjects detected 95% of TSD carriers (carrier frequency 1:25). Having mixed Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi heritage reduced the carrier frequency (1:97). South African heritage conveyed a fourfold risk of c.1421 + 1G > C mutation compared with other AJ subjects (odds ratio (OR), 4.19; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.83-9.62, p = 0.001), but this was the only specific case of ancestral origin improving diagnostic sensitivity over that based on determining Ashkenazi ethnicity. Carriers of c.1278insTATC mutations were more likely to have heritage from Western Europe (OR, 1.65 (95% CI, 1.04-2.60), p = 0.032) and South Eastern Europe (OR, 1.77 (95% CI, 1.14-2.73), p = 0.010). However, heritage from specific European countries investigated did not significantly alter the overall odds of TSD carrier status.

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