Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Most Children of Consanguinamorous Parents Are Fine

Thanks to Victoria Cuthbert at for bringing us this article reminding us that so much of what we hear about children from consanguinamorous parents is misinformed.
Consanguineous marriage, or marriage to a blood relative, is a custom that has been popularly practised in almost every part of the world at some point of time. Though in the West it has largely grown out of the culture and become stigmatised, in many other countries, like Oman, it continues to remain a valued social custom.

In fact, according to Professor Alan Bittles, a professor of community genetics at Edith Cowan University and research leader in the centre for comparative genomics at Murdoch University, both in Australia, it is estimated that ten per cent of marriages worldwide are consanguineous. In regions where consanguineous marriage is more popular such as the Middle East, North Africa and Central and South Asia, the number can reach over 50 per cent, and in countries like Qatar and the UAE it is said to be on the rise.
Consanguinamory is not rare, nor is it against tradition.
While some politicians, media and experts in the field have warned against the greatly increased health risk of consanguineous marriage, many scientists claim they are vastly misguided, and at the same time completely disregarding the social significance of the practice.

“There is a misunderstanding spread by the media that there is a risk from consanguineous marriages, but this is actually very minimal,” said Dr Allal Ouhtit, head of the department of genetics at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU).

Though current research estimates that there is double the risk of mortality and disability for a child if its parents are first cousins, this only increases from about two to four per cent - still leaving around a 96 per cent chance that the child will be healthy.

“Even still, we are not sure because research on consanguinity has bought conflicting results. All the studies have been done in the West and were probably not well controlled. That's why we are trying to set research up here,” added Dr Allal.

“Our findings have shown that the health risks associated with consanguineous marriage have been exaggerated, largely due to flawed research,” agreed Prof Alan , who visited Oman recently to participate in the International Conference on Consanguinity. “Research has often failed to allow for non-genetic factors that can adversely influence health outcomes including poverty, poor maternal health, very young maternal age and short intervals between births.
May the good Doctors get some good research going. Too many people out there express ignorant statements about this, and it hurts people. Most children born to close relatives are healthy. We all know some, whether we're aware of who those children are, or not. You don't have to go far back in most family trees to find consanguineous parents. Whether or not to have children and how is for people to decide for themselves, and anyone concerned should get genetic screening and counseling.
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