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Disclosure: The cost of the Saudi Premarital Screening program and the study were totally borne by different departments of the Ministry of Health, Saudi Arabia and all the authors are full-time employees of the Ministry of Health.
Purpose: To estimate the prevalence of sickle cell disorders and beta thalassemia, with their regional distribution, in the adult population screened as part of the Saudi Premarital Screening Program.
A number of studies conducted in Saudi Arabia demonstrated that the prevalence of these diseases varied significantly in different parts of the country, with the highest prevalence in the Eastern province of the country, followed by southwestern provinces.
This high frequency of hemoglobinopathies is part of the general pattern of relatively common autosomal recessive hereditary diseases, which is quite understandable in a country with a consanguineous marriage rate exceeding 50%, with the rate of marriage between first cousins ranging from 40% to 50%.
However, the Ministry of Health has divided some of these regions into smaller regions, resulting in 20 health regions.
The whole country is divided into 13 administrative regions.
Starting on the first day of the Islamic year 1425 (corresponding to February 21, 2004), the screening test was made mandatory for all couples planning to marry and applying for a marriage license.
These individuals had to contact one of the designated receptions centers, where trained staff recorded their basic demographic information and collected the blood samples in tubes containing EDTA anticoagulant before sending them to the designated laboratory.
Methods: A cross-sectional, population-based study was conducted as part of the National Premarital Screening Program.
It covered all the individuals who applied for a marriage license during the years 14 Hijra (February 2004 to January 2005).Beta thalassemia clinically presents as thalassemia trait (thalassemia minor) or thalassemia major.