Faroe Islanders dying from rare genetic disease

doctor1Residents of the Faroe Islands are suffering in far greater numbers from rare genetic illnesses than the rest of the world, according to new research.

The uncommon genetic failure, known as Carnitine Transporter Deficiency (CTD), typically affects one in every 50,000–100,000 people; in Denmark, just two people have been diagnosed with the illness in the past 30 years. However, health authorities on the Faroe Islands have uncovered the condition in around 100 residents over the past few months.

People who suffer from CTD lack carnitine – a natural substance produced by the body to process fat in cells. Without the proper levels of carnitine, the failure to convert fat into energy can lead to heart problems, reports the Copenhagen Post.

Researchers were aware of a slight increase in CTD cases on the islands over recent years, but this was highlighted in 2009 when a 21 year-old man died after a cardiac arrest in his university dormitory. His sister had also died of a heart attack two years earlier. Another young woman also passed away in similar circumstances in January, prompting the families of the victims to call on health authorities for greater action.

A free screening program has been set up for the 48,000 residents of the Islands, with the initial results shaking locals and officials. The race is now on to uncover and treat all of those affected.

“Unfortunately we’ve seen people die from this disease and it can happen very suddenly, so it’s important we find the affected patients and get them treated as soon as possible,” said Dr Allan Meldgaard Lund from Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet.

Cystic fibrosis, liver deficiencies and mental and physical disabilities were also found at above average levels among the Faroese.

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