Muscat: A larger percentage of Oman’s population suffers from one or the other blood disorder, prompting health authorities in the country to consider pre-marital blood tests to bring down the number of such cases.

“About 58 per cent of citizens carry at least one of the blood disorders genes,” Dr Salam Al Kindi, SQU Head of Haematology, said at a press conference held at the Crown Plaza Muscat on Monday.
He pointed out that 47 per cent of the Omanis suffer from alpha Thalassemia gene, 5.5 per cent have sickle cell disease, and 2.62 have beta Thalassemia gene and 1.6 per cent have other haemoglobin variants.

“Now, Oman Hereditary Blood Disorder Association (OHBDA), together with the government, is slowly trying to introduce the aspect of pre-marital blood tests in the country,” says Dr Al Kindi.

“Up to 160 babies per year in Oman are born with sickle cell disease while 15 are born with Thalassemia, which proves the severity of this problem,” stressed Thuraya Bint Saif Bin Sultan Al Hosni, OHBDA Vice-president.

“One of the association’s main aim is to encourage pre-marriage genetic screening to reduce the number of new babies afflicted with these life threatening and terrible diseases,” she pointed out.

Sickle cell disease patients go through very severe pain attacks, chest infections and bone necroses, frequently needing hospitalisation to receive pain killers and other medications, which puts strain on the patient and their families.

Thalassemia patients require monthly blood transfusions and can face problems with their heart, lungs and spleen, which in many cases can prove fatal. Frequent attacks put patients and their families into stages of depression and sometimes lead to loose their work and quit schools.

“We do not discourage marriages, but we need people to go for pre-marital blood tests,” suggested Dr Al Kindi.

He said that it was only a single blood test that would reveal all diseases.