Cousin Marriages and Potential Risks of Genetic Diseases

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. 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. 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 or called “bradri”. Parents also have fear that if their children marry outside the family, they will get excommunicated or get bad image. There is also another motive behind cousin marriages: to maintain caste line, to keep wealth within the family and to strengthen family knots.

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.

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.

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 is 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.

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.

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