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J Med Screen. 2007;14(2):62-6.

Premarital screening for beta-thalassaemia in Southern Iran: options for improving the programme.

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Department of Pediatrics, Hematology Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Science Shiraz, Iran.



beta-thalassaemia is a preventable disease. Iran has about 20,000 homozygote beta-thalassaemia patients and 3,750,000 carriers.


To assess the 10-year results of the screening programme, which has been operating in Southern Iran since 1995.


All couples wanting to marry were required to be checked for beta-thalassaemia by their red blood cell indices in order to receive a permit for marriage registration. The results were reported to the nearest counselling team. If the results were conspicuous, haemoglobin A(2)(HbA(2)) and, in some subjects, Hb electrophoresis was performed. Couples in which both partners were carriers received counselling. For those who, in spite of the recommendation, decided to marry, prenatal diagnosis and termination of pregnancy in case of an affected fetus was offered. The latter was offered only in the last three years.


In 1995, 1999 and 2004, 296, 94 and 56 beta-thalassaemia homozygotes, respectively, were born (2.53, 1.07 and 0.82 patients per 1000 births).


This programme has decreased the birth prevalence of beta-thalassaemia, but has unfortunately not eliminated the disease altogether. The reasons for the birth of new cases, in spite of the screening programmes, are: (i) premarital screening programme started in 1995; therefore, carrier couples who married before this did not receive counselling and gave birth to homozygote beta-thalassaemia children; (ii) unwanted pregnancy among the carrier couples; (iii) the couples knew about their problem, but they married for cultural and religious causes (illegal marriages).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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