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Genetic Disorders among Arab Populations. Edited by Ahmad S Teebi and T I Farag. (Pp 499; £75 hardback.) Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-509305-4.
This is No 30 of Oxford Monographs on Medical Genetics. It discusses various demographic features of Arabs, selected disease entity among Arabs, genetic disorders in Arab countries and geographic regions, as well as cultural and religious attitudes to genetic issues. It provides an explanation of the important observation that there are many reports of genetic diseases in Arab populations. This could be explained by the large families and high level of consanguinity which increase the frequency of autosomal recessive conditions. In addition, with control of infectious diseases, genetic disorders will become a more prevalent problem.
Until now, the exact size of the problem of genetic diseases was not known because of lack of epidemiological population based studies. However, there are several case reports and hospital based studies that indicate an increasing number of genetic diseases. Some of these were described first in Arab populations, for example, limb/pelvis, hypoplasia/aplasia syndrome described in a Palestinian family from Kuwait; subsequently reports came from other countries including Brazil and Italy.
No source of information has collected these reports in a systematic way, hence the importance this book which helps researchers in getting information on genetic diseases among Arab populations.
One would expect more description of genetic diseases in different Arab countries with advanced health care and improved laboratory technology. Therefore, revision and updating of this book are expected in the future because the subject is changing rapidly.
As a paediatric neurologist, I found the book very useful, in particular the chapter on new syndromes first reported among Arabs. More than 100 new single gene syndromes are described. Chapters on genetic disorders among the bedouin and cultural aspects are important for all doctors treating patients with genetic disorders. The chapters are based on the geography of Arab countries resulting in some repetition.
The editors have tried to cover the subject as broadly as possible but I think that coverage for certain diseases was not optimum, for example, endocrine and kidney disorders, congenital adrenal hyperplasia and congenital nephrosis, which are observed in certain Arab tribes. Similarly, the coverage of genetic and metabolic disorders in Saudi Arabia was also not complete, since Saudi Arabia is the origin of all tribal migration to other Arab countries. Many inborn errors of metabolism have been described from Saudi Arabia, for example in a special supplement of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology in April 1991.
Despite these limitations the book provides a good source of information regarding genetic diseases in Arab countries. It is a good reference book for paediatricians, geneticists, neurologists, and other medical specialists in Arab countries as well as physicians from other countries who may face a medical problem in Arab patients and who may not be aware that these rare genetic diseases do occur in Arab populations frequently.
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