The GM2 gangliosidose, Tay–Sachs and Sandhoff diseases, are a class of lysosomal storage diseases in which relentless neurodegeneration results in devastating neurological disability and premature death. Primary prevention is the most effective intervention since no effective therapy is currently available. An extremely successful model for the prevention of GM2 gangliosidosis in the Ashkenazi Jewish community is largely attributable to the very limited number of founder mutations in that population. Consistent with our previous observation of allelic heterogeneity in consanguineous populations, we show here that these diseases are largely caused by private mutations which present a major obstacle in replicating the Ashkenazi success story. Alternative solutions are proposed which can also be implemented for other autosomal recessive diseases in our population. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.