Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Haemoglobinopathies: Tribals living in Andhra Pradesh suffer from hereditary blood disorders, which rob them of their physical strength. Research studies on Konda Kammara, an endangered tribal group living in the Agency areas of north coastal Andhra, reveals that one in every seven tribals carries a gene that makes them susceptible to rare genetic blood problems like sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Tribals living in the State suffer from hereditary
blood disorders, which rob them of their physical strength. Research
studies on Konda Kammara, an endangered tribal group living in the
Agency areas of north coastal Andhra, reveals that one in every seven
tribals carries a gene that makes them susceptible to rare genetic
blood problems like sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia.

Since these blood disorders (haemoglobinopathies) are hereditary in
nature, they can be prevented through counselling and medical
interventions. Konda Kammara is a highly backward tribal group with
about 50,000 population. The overall prevalence of haemoglobinopathies
among Konda Kammaras is 14.56 per cent with 13.59 per cent of sickle
cell trait and 0.97 per cent suffering from beta-thalassemia.

Researchers from the department of human genetics, Andhra University,
Visakhapatnam, the Anthropological Survey of India, Kolkata, and the
department of Anthropology, Delhi University conducted the research in
the tribal areas of Visakhapatnam. Dr VR Rao, P Haritha, V Lakshmi, P
Veerraju and BN Sarkar were part of the research team.

“Blood disorders are rampant among tribals in south India. Since these
are genetic in nature, supplementation from outside will not help.
They carry a recessive gene, which means one in four children born
carries the risk. However, prevention of these disorders is possible
through population screening and counseling,” senior anthropologist Dr
VR Rao of Delhi University told this correspondent.

A little over 100 tribals from Konda Kammara community were screened
as part of the study. They were aged between 22 and 58 years. These
blood disorders result in acute shortage of iron in the blood (chronic
haemolytic anaemia), jaundice, high susceptibility to infectious
diseases, liver and kidney problems, ulcers on the skin and stunted
growth.

India has the world’s second largest tribal populations in the world.
Every fourth tribal person on the earth is an Indian.

“There is no comprehensive data on the interaction of thalassemias and
abnormal haemoglobins in the tribal populations,” Dr Rao said adding
that there was the first study, which showed beta-thalassemia mutation
prevalent among Konda Kammara tribe of Andhra Pradesh

Besides Visakhapatnam, Konda Kammaras live in Srikakulam,
Vizianagaram, and East Godavari and West Godavari districts.

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