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This figure of 3 per cent contrasts with the 1.6 per cent in children born of out of non-blood-relations unions. Bradford is a small area in the UK where Pakistani Muslims constitute 16.8 per cent of the population.
A close knit group, they practice consanguinity; 75 per cent of them marry first cousins.
That marriages between blood relations might lead to health issues for the child has been suspected for several years.
Now, a detailed analysis of the issue involving over 11,000 children, born out of consanguineous marriages, revealed congenital anomalies in 386 of them. analysed these babies termed “Born in Bradford” to obtain these results.
The researchers found the Bradford group to be a large enough and inbred group where a study of this kind would have statistical significance.
The problem in such close relative marriages surfaces when one of the partners carries a defect in any of the genes associated with some form of illness.
When you marry within the community with one who may also have such a family defect, the child inherits two copies of this faulty gene, and thus has the defect.
But when you marry outside the community, you bring in genes from a much larger gene pool, and the odds that the child will inherit the problem reduce remarkably.
Of course, the prevalence in Bradford is but 3 per cent.
Most of the children are normal and as healthy as those born from non-cousin marriages.
Also, lest someone conclude otherwise, this does not reflect against either Pakistan or Islam.
Sheridan and colleagues also studied the lifestyle, smoking and drinking habits, income and poverty and other factors that might contribute, and found that consanguinity is the leading culprit.
They have published their analysis in the July 4 issue of The Lancet.