About Tay-Sachs Disease: An End to an Incurable Genetic Disease
Not long ago, Tay-Sachs Disease, a devastating genetic disease, was relatively common in American Jews, and approximately 1 in 3,600 Jewish babies were born with the disease. Every baby born with Tay-Sachs dies within a few short years without learning to speak or walk.
How many American Jewish babies are born with Tay-Sachs today? Nearly zero. Medical science cannot yet cure the disease, but genetic testing has almost eliminated it in the American Jewish population.
Once it became clear that more than 1 in 30 Eastern European Jews were Tay-Sachs carriers, the Jewish community in Baltimore launched the first voluntary program testing for Tay-Sachs carrier screening in 1971. Similar programs quickly spread to major cities throughout the United States until Tay-Sachs testing became routine for nearly all American Jews of reproductive age.
Testing gave carrier couples the opportunity to know their risks and have healthy children. Thanks to the availability of genetic testing for mutations (DNA changes) in the Tay Sachs gene and modern medical techniques like in vitro fertilization with preimplantation genetic diagnosis, thousands of carrier couples have given birth to healthy babies.
The availability of JScreen is a promising step in building upon the initial success of Tay-Sachs screening. For Ashkenazi Jews, JScreen’s DNA test will detect 90% of carriers. You should know, though, that the carrier detection rate for people who have both Jewish and non-Jewish ancestry, or no Jewish ancestry at all, is much lower. Another test, called the blood enzyme test, is available through your doctor, and can detect up to 98% of Tay Sachs carriers in all groups. We recommend you consider having the blood enzyme test in addition to JScreen’s DNA test for maximum detection. Click here for more information on blood enzyme testing.
While Tay-Sachs may be on the decline in the Jewish community, the battle to end preventable genetic disease is far from over. First, the Jewish community is at risk for 18 or more other preventable genetic diseases, some of which are even more frequent than Tay-Sachs.
Now it’s up to you to protect your family’s future. Learn your risk for Tay-Sachs and 18 other Jewish genetic diseases – click here to start your testing process now.