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Keywords:

  • carrier screening;
  • cystic fibrosis;
  • education;
  • high school;
  • Jewish;
  • multi-disease screening;
  • Tay Sachs disease

Ioannou L, Massie J, Lewis S, Petrou V, Gason A, Metcalfe S, Aitken MA, Bankier A, Delatycki MB. Evaluation of a multi-disease carrier screening programme in Ashkenazi Jewish high schools.

A screening programme for Tay Sachs disease (TSD) carrier status was introduced in high schools in Victoria, Australia in 1997, and was expanded to screen for six other genetic conditions common in the Ashkenazi Jewish population in 2008. The aim of this study was to evaluate the current programme and compare it with an evaluation of the programme when screening was offered for TSD alone. All students from Jewish high schools in Melbourne who offered the programme in 2009 were invited to participate in the study. A purpose-designed questionnaire explored the following domains: knowledge (disease and genetics), reasons for screening, anxiety, and predicted negative feelings if found to be a carrier. Two hundred and seventy-three students were offered screening, and 272 (99.6%) completed the questionnaire. Only two students chose not to have screening. Two hundred and seventy-one students were in the penultimate year of high school (99.6%) and 222 were of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (82.5%). The main reasons for choosing screening were the desire to know carrier status and convenience. Knowledge level decreased and negative feelings increased in the current cohort compared to that when screening was offered for TSD alone. We conclude that the current programme is efficient, although increasing the number of conditions resulted in a decrease in knowledge and increase in predicted negative feelings if found to be a carrier of one of the conditions. This has implications for multi-disease screening programmes that will increase in frequency as more conditions can be screened for and costs diminish.