Throughout the class, culture, time and societies across from Africa and parts of South Asia, marriage between family members has been widely practiced for thousands of years, largely as a means of securing relationships between tribes and preserving family wealth, but also as a practical necessity given that genders are often kept separate.
Given the long tradition of cousin marriages among many cultures worldwide, many individuals will consider revising their choice of marriage partner in light of information about the risks of cousin marriage, so it was difficult to say whether such marriages are beneficial or not, even if superficially they appear to be successful.
It’s conventional wisdom that procreation between first cousins is unhealthy. But what are the actual genetic risks? Let’s try to understand the genetics of Cousin Marriage.
Cousin marriages are common in Pakistan. Children of first cousin marriages may have chances of having genetic disorders. Families neglect the association of risks linked with cousin marriages. The question is why cousin marriages are common in Pakistan? The answer is parents find it easy to search their children’s spouse within family to strengthen family knots. Parents also have fear that if their children marry outside the family, they will get expelled and faces extreme pressure from the family. There is also another motive behind cousin marriages: to maintain caste line, blood connections and also to keep wealth within the family.
In Pakistan the most common genetic disease come out due to cousin marriage is mental retardation. According to research that was conducted by the University of Health sciences Lahore, in Pakistan 82 % of parents are cousins.
In Genetics subject, there are many terms and laws that common man could not understand, so in simpler definition every human has specific genetic mutation, which normally are recessive or hidden, but this genetic mutation becomes dominant in children of cousin parents. There are many genetic diseases that are associated with cousin marriages such as cystic fibrosis, thalassemia, down’s syndrome, heart diseases, autism, blindness, deafness, neurodegenerative diseases and rare genetic disorders. In Pakistan, greater than 360 rare genetic disorders have been diagnosed.
Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, every pair is made up of two chromosomes, and one chromosome comes from mother and second comes from father. Chromosomes have genetic data that determines the physical, personality trait and genetic mutations. If both parents are carriers of genetic mutation, there are high chances that their children will be born with mutation and have disease. If single parent is carrier of genetic mutation, child would be carrier of that genetic mutation or mutation would be cancel out.
Genetic diseases are impossible to cure. In biotechnology, despite of expensive procedure, there are some therapies available and have few successful stories but chances of success are extremely narrow. Recently scientists have made successful experiment to cure genetic disorder by utilizing CRISPR gene editing technology but still time will be required to make it more practical, risk-free, cheap and approachable.
The trend of marriages between cousins, within a clan or caste should be discouraged as the number of children suffering from a group of genetic diseases, called Lysosomal Storage Disorder (LSD) in medical terminology, is on the rise. Such children do not survive more than five years if not diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Treatment of LSD changes outcome from miserable death to a near normal but it is very expensive.
LSD was caused by defect in special enzymes required to break down certain waste products in the body and the defect led to interference with normal cellular function. The symptoms include abnormal bony changes, recurrent chest infections, enlarged liver and spleen and Central Nervous System manifestation.
There are many examples that children are born disease free in cousin marriages because there are some other factors involve. Cousin marriages are going strong in Pakistan, but what couples can do? Couples can go through DNA and blood testing before nuptials; they can get genetic counseling from experts. It is very difficult to eradicate this problem, but we can educate people about possible potential risks associated with it.
There is a large body of research of social determinants of health, but there also gaps, particularly in the areas of policy and implementation research, and research on how to overcome social and institutional challenges to progress for rare disease cure.
About Samreen Khan Ghauri
Samreen Khan Ghauri is an aspiring Multi-Media Journalist, SBCC specialist based in Pakistan. she can be access to firstname.lastname@example.org & @samreen_ideas