University Institute of Medical Lab Technology (UIMLT) organized a seminar entitled ‘Thalassemia Awareness and Screening Program’, in collaboration with Punjab Thalassemia Prevention Project (PTPP) on Oct 10th, 2019, in Auditorium 2. The seminar aimed to raise awareness about Thalassemia, its prevention, complications, treatment, and importance of premarital screening and to conduct free screening camps for Thalassemia trait.
The seminar commenced with a brief overview of the University Institute of Medical Lab Technology presented by Prof. Dr. Nazar Ullah Raja, Head of Department (HoD), UIMLT and Prof. Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad, Associate Dean, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences (FAHS), welcomed the distinguished keynote speakers, Dr. Shabnam Bashir, Project Director PTPP, Dr. Yasmeen Ehsan, Project Coordinator, PTPP, HoDs of FAHS, and the other participants of the seminar.
In the preliminary session of the seminar, Dr.Yasmeen Ehsan Tariq delivered a comprehensive talk on awareness, causes and prevention of Thalassemia. She communicated that Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder in which a child has a defect in hemoglobin (Hb) gene which is responsible for low viable Hb production. The overall oxygen carrying capacity of Hb is reduced which leads to certain lethal complications. She further expounded that Thalassemia is broadly divided into two types: Alpha and Beta. In Pakistan, Beta Thalassemia is the predominant type which is further classified into Thalassemia Minor and Thalassemia Major Thalassemia minor isa carrier state and the person is usually asymptomatic. Overall, approximately 6% of Pakistani population is Thalassemia minor. β-Thalassemia major is a serious form and these patients need regular blood transfusion after every fifteen days or after a month approximately, depending upon different factors including the age and general health of the patient.
In the subsequent session, Dr. Shabnam Bashir enlightened the participants that PTPP was initiated by the government of Punjab in 2009 and it aims at carrier identification and prevention of Thalassemia Major at birth. Currently, it is working in six regional centers (Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Lahore (PIMU), Holy Family Hospital Rawalpindi, Nishter Hospital Multan, Bahawal Victoria Hospital, Bahawalpur, Ghulam Muhammad Hospital Faisalabad and Teaching Hospital D G Khan), and all 36 Districts of Punjab.
At present, it is providing CBC/HPLC/ Electrophoresis and Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) procedure in all the regions. Besides, extended family screening, mandatory premarital screening, and genetic counseling are also being provided in the above mentioned regions. Dr. Shabnam added further that so far 2260 major seminars and numerous small scale events have been organized in this regard. Additionally, PTPP has already kicked started Thalassemia awareness and prevention campaign through electronic and print media.
While talking regarding PTPP, she explicated that 10-12 million people are carriers in Pakistan and 60,000 are registered cases. Thalassemia Major patients suffer complications and require regular chelation to manage iron overload that enhances the finance of project. She further expounded that lack of awareness about disease, consanguinity, delayed introduction of preventive measures are the root causes of increasing number of patients and prevention is the only practicable solution. Later, she also motivated the faculty members and students to submit their blood samples for free Thalassemia carrier screening and urged them to donate blood because every single drop of blood is worth a smile and up to 70% of all blood collection in Pakistan is given to children with Thalassemia.
Later, Prof. Dr. Syed Amir Gilani, the worthy Dean FAHS, presented note of thanks to eminent guest speakers and appreciated the efforts of UIMLT for organizing an awareness seminar and was hopeful that such activities would be helpful in reducing Thalassemia disease burden in Pakistan. In this regard, bipartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) (that was signed between The UOL and PTPP) was also presented to Dr. Shabnam Bashir, in order to initiate collaborative activities for raising awareness about health hazards of β-Thalassemia in future. Later, the distinguished guest speakers were presented souvenirs followed by group photographs.
At the end of the seminar, more than 150 volunteer faculty members and students of UIMLT submitted their blood samples for Thalassemia trait to the screening camp arranged in front of the executive cafeteria. The results of the screening of the submitted samples will be provided by PTPP within fifteen days to the subjects.