Building on the impact of its screening programme in the London area for serious genetic conditions prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews, Jnetics has opened an office in Manchester.
“It was obvious to us that if there are large Ashkenazi Jewish populations elsewhere in the UK, we need to provide them access to education and screening,” explained Aviva Lewis, the programme development officer at the Manchester service, which will also cover Leeds and Liverpool.
“At the moment, my work is focused on promoting the virtual clinic [for anyone requiring information and testing]. We want to make sure everyone knows about the clinic and how to access it.
“I will also be co-ordinating the delivery of our sixth-form education and screening programme GENEius at King David High School in March.
“First, we give an interactive educational session to all students about Jewish genetic disorders, with particular focus on the severe recessive disorders and the importance of carrier screening in their prevention. We encourage the students to discuss the option of screening with their parents before registration for the screening, which will take place a week later at the school.”
Ms Lewis added that among those with Ashkenazi ancestry, one-in-five "is a carrier of at least one of the disorders we screen for.
“All communities have equal need for carrier screening and there needs to be equality in availability and accessibility.”
Participants provide a saliva sample which is sent off to the NHS genetics lab at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
Testing for pupils is free. Adults can arrange a test at a subsidised cost of £190.
Results of the test are conveyed by email in around two months - or in three weeks or under in the case of a pregnant woman. Counselling is available for those found to be carriers.