Carrier screening for cystic fibrosis, Gaucher disease, and Tay-Sachs disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish population: the first 1000 cases at New York University Medical Center, New York, NY

Arch Intern Med. 1998 Apr 13;158(7):777-81. doi: 10.1001/archinte.158.7.777.


Background: By late 1993, the genes for cystic fibrosis and Gaucher disease and the mutations common among Ashkenazi Jews had been identified. In response to these advances, heterozygote screening for cystic fibrosis and Gaucher disease was added to the more than 20-year-old Tay-Sachs disease screening program at New York University Medical Center, New York, NY.

Objective: To review the outcomes from the first 1000 patients screened through this program.

Methods: Patients and their referring physicians were informed about the new carrier tests. At the time of screening, patients could choose their tests (hexosaminidase A by enzyme analysis for Tay-Sachs disease or mutation analysis for cystic fibrosis and Gaucher disease). All partners of Tay-Sachs and cystic fibrosis carriers were tested. Prenatal diagnosis was offered and performed for carrier couples or mixed-marriage couples in whom the Ashkenazi Jewish partner was a carrier of Gaucher disease. Outcomes were measured by: (1) choice of tests, (2) decisions regarding prenatal diagnosis, and (3) phenotypes of children born to patients who underwent screening.

Results: The majority of Ashkenazi Jewish patients chose to have testing for all 3 diseases. If they previously underwent screening for Tay-Sachs disease, then they chose to undergo testing for cystic fibrosis and Gaucher disease. All carrier couples for each of these diseases went on to have prenatal testing. All mixed-marriage couples in whom the Jewish partner was found to be a carrier for Gaucher disease chose to have prenatal diagnosis. One fetus was identified as having cystic fibrosis. Since the program was initiated, no Ashkenazi Jewish baby has been born with any of these diseases at New York University Medical Center.

Conclusions: New tests can be readily incorporated into established heterozygote screening programs. The Ashkenazi Jewish population described herein tends to choose testing for all conditions for which heterozygote screening is available.

MeSH terms

  • Cystic Fibrosis / ethnology*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gaucher Disease / ethnology*
  • Gaucher Disease / genetics*
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Heterozygote*
  • Humans
  • Jews / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • New York
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Tay-Sachs Disease / ethnology*
  • Tay-Sachs Disease / genetics*