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Genet Med. 2005 Nov-Dec;7(9):626-32.

Tay Sachs disease carrier screening in schools: educational alternatives and cheekbrush sampling.

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Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Bruce Lefroy Centre for Genetic Health Research, Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Royal Children's Hospital.



Tay Sachs disease carrier screening programs have been offered successfully worldwide since 1970. The programs typically offer education, testing, and counseling to provide reproductive choices. One such program has been offered to Jewish school students in Melbourne since 1998. In a time of increasing public awareness of genetics, programs require continuous evaluation and updating.


Over 2 successive years, a longitudinal evaluation involved students attending Jewish schools in Melbourne. Both qualitative and quantitative techniques were used to analyze alternative methods for education and sampling procedures. Comparisons involved (1) a computer-based resource versus an oral educational presentation and (2) blood sampling for enzyme and genetic testing versus cheekbrush testing for genetic sampling alone.


The education session was effective in significantly increasing students' knowledge (10.5% +/- 1.2%, P < .0001) and decreasing their anxiety about being a carrier (-12.2% +/- 1.6%, P < .0001). For the students, no significant differences were found between the computer-based resource and oral presentation. There were significantly more students accepting a carrier test and anxiety was lower when a cheekbrush test was offered compared with when a blood test was offered.


Computer-based instruction is equally effective, in addition to offering advantages of self-paced learning and minimization of human resources as an oral presentation within a genetic carrier screening program. Cheekbrush sampling is preferred to blood sampling and should be implemented into current practices for offering genetic screening programs. These results present alternatives to practices for genetic screening reflecting the current developing technology.

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