Journal of Community Genetics

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 277–282 | Cite as

Thalassemia: a prevalent disease yet unknown term among college students in Saudi Arabia

  • Duaa Ibrahim Olwi
  • Leena Adnan Merdad
  • Eman Kamal Ramadan
Original Article


Thalassemia is a life-threatening blood disorder that has a high prevalence in Saudi Arabia despite the implementation of mandatory premarital testing and the availability of genetic counseling. This study aimed to assess college students’ knowledge of thalassemia. A cross-sectional survey of a random sample of 920 senior students enrolled at King Abdulaziz University was conducted. A self-administered questionnaire was used to collect information about thalassemia and socio-demographic characteristics. Of the 920 students, 445 (48%) had ever heard of thalassemia. Despite the mandatory premarital testing for thalassemia, only 50% of married students stated having heard of the disease. The mean thalassemia knowledge score was 4.4 ± 2.2 out of a maximum of 12. Knowledge was significantly influenced by university faculty, gender, and education outside of Saudi Arabia. Those who had heard of thalassemia had misconceptions about the disease characteristics and pattern of inheritance such as associating thalassemia with low iron levels. A substantial proportion of the participants had a low knowledge of thalassemia. This lack of awareness requires a reassessment of the goals and success of the premarital testing program, including the genetic counseling services, and also indicates the importance of emphasizing thalassemia in school curricula and promoting and scaling up existing thalassemia campaigns in the region.


Thalassemia Knowledge Premarital testing Prevention 



The authors wish to thank the students at KAU for their participation. We also thank Prof. James Ware and Prof. Julie Buring from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. Taghreed Shuaib from KAU, and Dr. Rawaa Olwi from King Faisal Specialist Hospital for their valuable comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

The study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee at the King Abdulaziz University which is in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Duaa Ibrahim Olwi
    • 1
  • Leena Adnan Merdad
    • 2
  • Eman Kamal Ramadan
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.King Abdullah International Medical Research CenterMinistry of National Guard Health AffairsJeddahSaudi Arabia
  2. 2.Department of Dental Public Health, Faculty of DentistryKing Abdulaziz UniversityJeddahSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of MedicineAzhar UniversityCairoEgypt
  4. 4.Department of Family and Community Medicine, Faculty of MedicineKing Abdulaziz UniversityJeddahSaudi Arabia

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