Thalassemia syndromes are a heterogeneous anemia caused by mutation affecting globin chains of the hemoglobin molecule. It is estimated that the average life span of Rabhas (tribal population of North Bengal, Jalpaiguri) range from 42 – 45 years. This raised a concern that they are perishing due to some genetic disease. Hence Screening Camps were conducted to identify the reason. Rabha is a little known Scheduled Tribe community of West Bengal. Assam now renamed to Asom is a North-East India state of India with its capital at Dispur. The Rabha people are mainly found in the jungles of Jalpaiguri. West Bengal is a States and territories of India in eastern India. With Bangladesh, which lies on its eastern border the state forms the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. Jalpaiguri is the largest district of North Bengal, covering an area 6,245 sq.km. It is situated between 26 16' and 27 0' North latitudes and 88 4' and 89 53' East longitudes and Cooch Behar district. Cooch Behar is a district of the state of West Bengal, India, as well as the name of the town which gives its name to the district. The whole area of Eastern and Western Dooars, may be termed as the cradle land of the Rabhas. The Rabhas belong to Indo-Mongoloid group of people and have similarities with other members of Bodo. Bodo may stand for: *Bod A city in Norway* An ethnic community in India: the Bodo people*The Bodo language spoken by them. group such as Garo (tribe). The Garos are a tribe in Meghalaya, India, and Mymensingh District, Bangladesh, who call themselves Achik. Kachari. The Kacharis are the most widely spread tribe in northeast India. They are said to be the earliest inhabitants of the Brahmaputra Valley. Mech (tribe), Koch. Our objectives were- Awareness among the tribal population through talks and documentaries and discussions with community leaders with demonstrations at village level. The goal of thalassemia screening is to identify the carrier status among Rabha populations, to control the birth of affected children thus eradicating thalassemia among them & to save one of the oldest tribe from being extinct.
At first an Awareness Programme was held among the Rabhas & then with the written consent peripheral blood was collected for thalassemia screening test. The screening age lies between 10 – 35 years. Firstly, NESTROFT (Naked Eye Single Tube Red Cell Osmotic fragility Test) was performed for spot detection. This was followed by CBC (Complete Blood Count) & HPLC (High performance Liquid Chromatography) for confirmation.
Molecular Analysis of every sample was done using ARMS PCR.
All together 277 individuals were screened. Of which 119 (43%) were HbE carrier & 110 (40%) were HbE homozygous. Rest of them was normal. The carrier & homozygous status was confirmed by performing ARMS PCR. The sensitivity of NESTROFT in this case was 95 %.
Thus the percentage of HbE carrier & HbE homozygous is very high among the Rabhas. But one thing is to be noted that their % of haemoglobin is very high. This might be one of the reasons that they do not require blood transfusion during their life span. It is spreading like a rapid fire due to consanguineous marriage among them. This is one of the reasons for the early mortality. In our project of Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India we'll complete carrier status detection of total Rabha population (11,000) within 3 years.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.