Prospect of genetic disorders in Saudi Arabia

Front Genet. 2023 Sep 20:14:1243518. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2023.1243518. eCollection 2023.


Introduction: Rare diseases (RDs) create a massive burden for governments and families because sufferers of these diseases are required to undergo long-term treatment or rehabilitation to maintain a normal life. In Saudi Arabia (SA), the prevalence of RDs is high as a result of cultural and socio-economic factors. This study, however, aims to shed light on the genetic component of the prevalence of RDs in SA. Methodology: A retrospective study was conducted between September 2020 and December 2021 at King Saud Medical City, a tertiary hospital of the Ministry of Health (MOH), SA. A total of 1080 individuals with 544 potentially relevant variants were included. The index was 738, and the samples were tested in a commercialized laboratory using different molecular techniques, including next-generation sequencing. Result: A total of 867 molecular genetics tests were conducted on 738 probands. These tests included 610 exome sequencing (ES) tests, four genome sequencing (GS) tests, 82 molecular panels, 106 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array, four methylation studies, 58 single-gene studies and three mitochondrial genome sequencing tests. The diagnostic yield among molecular genetics studies was 41.8% in ES, 24% in panels, 12% in SNP array and 24% in single gene studies. The majority of the identified potential variants (68%) were single nucleotide variants (SNV). Other ascertained variants included frameshift (11%), deletion (10%), duplication (5%), splicing (9%), in-frame deletion (3%) and indels (1%). The rate of positive consanguinity was 56%, and the autosomal recessive accounted for 54%. We found a significant correlation between the ES detection rate and positive consanguinity. We illustrated the presence of rare treatable conditions in DNAJC12, SLC19A3, and ALDH7A1, and the presence of the founder effect variant in SKIC2. Neurodevelopmental disorders were the main phenotype for which genetics studies were required (35.7%). Conclusion: This is the sixth-largest local study reporting next-generation sequencing. The results indicate the influence of consanguineous marriages on genetic disease and the burden it causes for the Kingdom of SA. This study highlights the need to enrich our society's knowledge of genetic disorders. We recommend utilising ES as a first-tier test to establish genetic diagnosis in a highly consanguineous population.

Keywords: Saudi Arabia; diagnostic yield; exome sequencing; genome sequencing; neurodevelopmental disorders; panel; single nucleotide variant.