Context: The Union government have pledged to roll out a national mission to eradicate thalassemia from the country over the next 25 years, beginning with a country-wide screening exercise.
Screening can safely tackle the disease and spread awareness about getting tested before having children.
- Thalassemia is a group of inherited blood disorders characterised by abnormal haemoglobin production. The patient cannot make enough haemoglobin which leads to Anaemia, thus the patients require blood transfusions every two to three weeks to survive.
- Haemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.
- Thalassemia results from a mutation in one or more of the genes that make haemoglobin and is passed down from one or both parents through their genes.
Types of Thalassemia:
1. Thalassemia Minor:
- The haemoglobin genes are inherited during conception, one from the mother and one from the father.
- People with a Thalassemia trait in one gene are known as carriers or are said to have thalassemia minor. Thalassemia minor is not a disease and they have only mild anaemia.
2. Thalassemia Major:
- This is the most severe form of Thalassemia which occurs when a child inherits two mutated genes, one from each parent.
- Patients Children with thalassemia major develop the symptoms of severe Anaemia within the first year of life.
Prevalence in India:
- India has the largest number of children with Thalassemia major in the world (about 1 to 1.5 lakhs). The only cure available is bone marrow transplantation (BMT), which is difficult and not affordable.
Hence, the mainstay of treatment is repeated blood transfusions, followed by regular iron chelation therapy to remove the excessive iron overload, consequent to the multiple blood transfusions.