Screening for GJB2-R143W-Associated Hearing Impairment: Implications for Health Policy and Practice in Ghana

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S. Karger AG, Basel
Genetic factors significantly contribute to the burden of hearing impairment (HI) in Ghana as there is a high carrier frequency (1.5%) of the connexin 26 gene founder variant GJB2-R143W in the healthy Ghanaian population. GJB2-R143W mutation accounts for nearly 26% of causes in families segregating congenital non-syndromic HI. With HI associated with high genetic fitness, this indicates that Ghana will likely sustain an increase in the number of individuals living with inheritable HI. There is a universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) program in Ghana. However, this program does not include genetic testing. Adding genetic testing of GJB2-R143W mutation for the population, prenatal and neonatal stages may lead to guiding genetic counseling for individual and couples, early detection of HI for at-risk infants, and improvement of medical management, including speech therapy and audiologic intervention, as well as provision of the needed social service to enhance parenting and education for children with HI. Based on published research on the genetics of HI in Ghana, we recommend that the UNHS program should include genetic screening for the GJB2-R143W gene variant for newborns who did not pass the initial UNHS tests. This will require an upgrade and resourcing of public health infrastructures to implement the rapid and cost-effective GJB2-R143W testing, followed by appropriate genetic and anticipatory guidance for medical care
Gordon A. Awandare, Ambroise Wonkam, University of Ghana, WACCBIP_NCDS, Health policy, GJB2-R143W founder mutation, Hearing impairment, Newborn screening, Ghana