SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574
OBJECTIVES: To determine the range of genetic disorders in the Indian population of South Africa, assess relevant historical and demographic factors, and discuss the implications for medical and genetic care. METHODS: WSW reviewed the archived data pertaining to patients seen in his paediatric practice in Durban during the past 45 years. Likewise, PB reviewed case details of persons encountered since 1972 in Cape Town, at outreach clinics, and in special institutions for the handicapped throughout South Africa. Additional information was accessed through the Cape Genetic Heritage archive. RESULTS: In addition to the common ubiquitous worldwide genetic disorders, several rare heritable conditions are present in the Indian community of South Africa. These disorders are the consequence of the founder effect and reflect the biological heritage of the early immigrants. Demographic factors (notably endogamy) are also relevant in this respect. As a result of these processes, thalassaemia is by far the most common and important genetic disorder in the Indian population in the country. CONCLUSION: Awareness of the presence of specific genetic conditions in the Indian community of South Africa is important in the diagnostic process. In turn, diagnostic precision facilitates accurate prognostication and optimal medical and genetic management.