Genetic Counselling, Testing for Family Planning during COVID-19

The coronavirus lockdown is being extended by at least another two weeks. After almost a three week lockdown many states had proposed an extension of the lockdown; that itself should be enough to explain the severity of the situation. Every living organism on earth can be affected by viruses. In the absence of a cure or vaccine, the only protective barrier helping you would be your immune system. At the centre of life, life processes, immunity and infections, lie genes. Genes are made of DNA, for viruses that can be DNA or RNA.

As per doctors, it has yet to be ascertained if a vertical transmission of COVID-19 is possible. That is, the transference of the disease from the mother to the child that is still in the womb. However, an evidence has been recorded and that definitely raises concerns for hopeful parents during this period. Even if such transmission has not yet occurred, there are genetic ailments that can appear in babies. These are the direct consequence of the genes present in the parents

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Genetic ailments that typically appear in babies can include Down syndrome, sickle cell anaemia, cystic fibrosis, haemophilia, fragile X syndrome and others. Even if both parents are perfectly healthy, there’s a chance that the baby can have any of these disorders. Knowing the possible genetic risks associated with a birth can help you be better prepared for your future child.

Prenatal genetic counseling and testing from truGeny can help you understand your risks based on your family health history and the role your genes play. You can therefore make well-informed decisions on your future family.  

COVID-19 has all of worried and there’s a lot of anxiety amongst us. With truGeny – India’s first telegenetics platform, you can access the best of genetic counselling and testing from the saftey of your home. Whether you are currently pregnant or planning for a family, truGeny is offering you free genetic counselling sessions to help you access the best of genetic health. 

Genetic Testing and The Dreaded Corona Virus

Over the past few weeks, news of the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus disease, has dominated all media channels. It’s everywhere –  in your news feed, in your inbox, on TV, and everyone around you is talking about it. So how informed are you about COVID-19? Can you be genetically susceptible to this? Can genetic testing help you in any manner? Thinking of a satisfactory answer? Not to worry! Keep reading to have a bird’s eye view of all notable information about the disease.

who, genetic testing, genetic counselling, corona virus, coronavirus, COVID-19, trugeny

Originating in Wuhan of the Hubei Province, SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) was first detected in China during December 2019. The Chinese government took steps to immediately inform the WHO about the detection of the new virus and the related disease caused, namely CoronaVirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The spread of the disease is like the outbreak in 2002 for SARS and MERS in 2012. By January 21st, 2020, the first confirmed case of infection had happened in the US with around 12 cases by the end of January 2020. As of March 16th, 2020, 115 cases had been recorded in India. The cases primarily feature people who have had travel history including China. While the symptoms are similar to that of influenza and cold, swab tests can reveal if the virus is indeed the common cold or the SARS-CoV-2.

Swab tests? What is that? These tests involve taking samples of mucus from your nose or throat or of the sputum if you’re coughing it up. At times, blood can also be drawn to have a test done, but it is not always necessary. The genome sequence of the virus had been released by researchers in China by December 31st, 2019. Using this information, in the lab, technicians can look for genetic sequences matching that of the coronavirus. The results can then be declared positive or negative. So, what does this mean for you and should you opt for a genetic test?

First things first, as per the WHO, there are some common signs of being infected by the Coronavirus – respiratory problems (shortness or irregularity of breath), fever and cough. If the infection is severe, it can result in pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and even death. Now in the initial stages, it could be mistaken for common cold and if someone has a history of asthma, it could also be mistaken for that. Considering that the virus outbreak is still on the rise, it will be a good idea to get a test done as soon as possible. Test results can be delivered within as less as three hours. However, if one or more results even turn out to be negative, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of infection.

As of now, there has been no vaccine or confirmed treatment for the infection. Those who are clinically ill are often put on respirators to help them breathe. Common antiviral treatments are still being investigated. In the meantime, there are certain precautions that you can take in order to stay safe. Preventive measures include regular hand washing, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing and/or coughing and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs before consumption. It is advisable to avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as sneezing and coughing. This new strain of the virus is zoonotic, meaning it spreads from animals to humans. So, if you can avoid non-vegetarian prepared food available outside, it would be much better.

Finally, some other questions that keep popping up. Should you cancel your travel plans? If they aren’t urgent or aren’t covering East Asia and Europe, you should be safe to proceed. For a more detailed account, refer to this link by the CDC. A more summarised map-wise view is available here. Can you order items online from China? Yes. This is a respiratory virus and cannot survive transit conditions internationally. Should you wear masks all the time? Based on where you live, your doctor and the health and welfare department can issue notices to follow certain practices. It would do you good to observe them. Can you be genetically susceptible? As of now, there have been no confirmed reports of that. The only practical measure is prevention.

Precaution and preemptive measures help in being better prepared not only for COVID-19 but for almost every other ailment. Genetic counselling and genetic testing help you be prepared for quite a few health conditions. To know more about them and how they can help, please visit

When Should One opt for Prenatal Genetic Counselling

There are people who love babies, those who adore them or those who haven’t given a thought about progeny. But if you are planning on having a baby, irrespective of if you are going to be a mother or a father, certain responsibilities are unavoidable. You might say, yeah, there’s a lot of financial and medical preparation to be done and that you have already accounted for all of that. Sure, but have you accounted for your genes? Apart from the love, care and affection that you’re going to give your child, you also pass on your genes. What’s so wrong with that? Genes are responsible for the way you look, how your body functions and how healthy you are. Genes regulate everything, from your allergies to how strong your immune system is. Genes are passed on from a parent to a child and at times certain genes are responsible for causing diseases. The goal of prenatal genetic counselling and genetic testing is to help you understand if there’s any risk of you passing on these genes to your future baby.

That short bit of information doesn’t necessarily clarify everything. After all, you have been healthy for the better part of your life and so has your partner. What possible risk could come to your child? A child born to two healthy parents should be healthy as well. Of course, that is true for most cases. But did you know that over 80% of babies born with genetic disorders have no known family history of diseases.  Almost 30% of all birth defects have a known cause that can be explained and understood through prenatal genetic counselling and testing.

If there have been no medical complications or birth defects in your family history, you might be among the standard 3-4% background rate for birth defects. However, there are few family lines where everyone is born pristine and has no health issues later in life. Genes have flowed down from your most ancient ancestors, have worked in tandem with environmental factors to make you the person you are today. If you take longer to recover from a common cold or you heal fast from cuts and bruises, it is all due to your genes.

If you are looking to get married and planning for a baby soon, a prenatal genetic counselling can help in a lot of ways. Counselling might or might not be followed by testing. This is further confirmed by your genetic counsellor. A genetic counsellor will analyse your and your spouse’s family health history and let you know if you should go for prenatal genetic testing. If the test is done, your genetic counsellor can guide you through the test results and explain what it means for you and your future baby. Some common situations when genetic testing is advised to include the following –

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  1. The couple planning for a baby has a close relative with an inherited illness
  2. The pregnant woman is over the age of 30
  3. First pregnancy resulted in the birth of  a baby with a genetic disorder
  4. Standard prenatal screening test yields an abnormal result
  5. There have been one  or more prior miscarriages
  6. A stillborn baby  has been delivered with signs of genetic illness

You might be sure of your entire family’s health history, but when it comes to your baby, the inherited genes from your spouse also play a major role. Some of the genetic disorders that can be detected through prenatal genetic testing are the following –

  1. Cystic fibrosis – An inherited life-threatening disorder that affects cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices making them thicker. This can plug up tubes, ducts and passageways inside the body
  2. Fragile X Syndrome – This disorder can cause mild to severe intellectual disability
  3. Sickle cell disease – A disorder that causes blood cells to become misshapen, break down faster than usual leading to anaemia or blockage of blood flow
  4. Tay-Sachs disease – A rare disorder that destroys nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord
  5. Spinal muscular atrophy – A group of neuromuscular disorders that result in loss of motor neurons and increasing muscular wasting
  6. Thalassemia – A disorder where the blood cells have less than optimal amounts of oxygen-carrying protein.

Keeping the above common detectable disorders in mind, you can understand the seriousness of the situation when a baby is born with such conditions. It is even more worrisome to consider that children born with such disorders can be from normally healthy patients. Genes with disorders can remain dormant for people through multiple generations without ever showing up their effects. However, problems start when genes of both parents combine in a child and from being a harmless carrier, the baby shows symptoms of disorders. Prenatal genetic counselling and testing is not a cure for such disorders; however they help you understand the possible health complications that your baby might have. At truGeny, trained and certified genetic counsellors help you and your spouse understand your family health history, advise you if you need genetic testing done, analyse the reports thereof and guide you towards options that can help you achieve your plan of starting a healthy family. 

What will genetic counselling and genetic testing tell me?

Your quest for healthy living and a happy family arises from a desire to have a predictable and safe future for you and your family. If you have a close family member such as a parent or a grandparent with a health problem, you might want to know if you are at a risk for the disease. Similarly, if you are planning for a child, you may want to know if you or your partner could pass on a disease to your future child. 1 , posing a major threat to public health. Over one million new cancer cases are diagnosed every year, and the number is expected to rise 5-fold by 2025 2 . In fact, today, India ranks third in the world with regard to incidence of cancers.

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The issue at hand may be a condition that has affected one or more of your family members and some of these conditions are often referred to as running in the family. Doctors call these “genetic” or “hereditary” health conditions.

Genetic counselling is not as complex as it sounds. It’s a simple conversation with a certified and highly trained genetic counsellor, where you can ask questions, get answers and address concerns about yours as well as your family’s health risk.

Genetic counselling is a process during which, information about the genetic aspects of a disorder and the risks of inheritance or passing on a disorder is discussed by a certified genetic counsellor. The counselling session is meant to provide guidance to those who are at an increased risk of inheriting a disease or of passing on a disorder to their children.

The genetic counsellor will provide you with information on the risk factors of you inheriting a disorder or of their recurrence. The counsellor will address the concerns of not only yours but also your family’s and also help consult with your Doctor. Additionally and more importantly, genetic counsellors also help you deal with the emotional aspects about how a genetic condition can affect a family.

There could be many reasons for an individual to seek genetic counselling. They may have a disorder themselves, or it could be a couple planning their first pregnancy and want to know their risk of passing on a disorder to their child. It could even be couples planning a pregnancy late in life or couples with an affected child and are planning for another pregnancy. Genetic counselling is useful for people at all stages of life, right from a baby being screened to teenagers being tested for Thalassemia or even assessing the predisposition risk of adults entering their mid-life so that they can make necessary lifestyle changes.

Genetic counsellors are trained to support you, so that you can ask them questions, such as:

  • Am I or my loved one going to be affected with a healthcare issue?
  • Or are my children going to be affected?
  • What can be done to treat it?
  • How does it affect while I age or what about my emotional well-being?

The answers to the questions you ask are provided during the counselling session. Once you learn about your health status, you can start taking proactive steps for ensuring a healthy future for yourself and for your family. If you are recommended to undergo a genetic test, counsellor will help you understand the test report, guide you and you can discuss it with your Doctor.

A little note about Genetic Testing: This is a type of medical testing that could involve you providing a sample of your saliva / blood or at times even tissue. The test identifies changes in chromosomes, genes or proteins. The test report will help either confirm or rule out a genetic condition. The reports also help determine an individual’s risk of developing or passing on a genetic disorder.

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The genetic counsellor will help you understand about the pros and cons of the test as well as discussing the emotional aspects of the testing. Genetic counsellor knows that it is important to have an understanding and support of your family. That’s the reason a genetic counsellor is available to counsel not only you but also counsel and help your family to understand better.

Genetic counsellors at truGeny believe that yours and your family’s health matters the most. The highly personalised service enables you to:

  • Know if you have a hereditary risk.
  • Stay ahead and help prevent or delay the onset of illness.
  • Understand your condition so you can manage better.
  • Be informed about your options so you can plan for your future family well.
  • Guide you through genetic testing.

If you too have a quest of life, we are always happy to listen and help.

Genetic Testing Helps Identify Inherited Heart Condition

Genetic Testing for Inherited Heart Disease

Kristen Criss, aged 38 from Riverside, California, was always battling health issues like arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats triggered by electrical malfunctions in the heart. When her heart was not once but eight times shocked back into a normal rhythm while pregnant, she was determined to know the exact cause of this. After all, her mother and sister had passed away due to a heart condition, while her father had succumbed to complications from a stroke. “Genetic Testing for Inherited Heart Disease

Criss was determined to find the reason behind the heart-related complications, and hence recently took a genetic test. The test revealed that she is suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), the same condition that took the life of her mother and sister at ages 40 and 33, respectively. She also learned that arrhythmia is a symptom of HCM, a rare condition associated with sudden cardiac death. This condition occurs when heart muscle cells enlarge and in turn cause the walls of the ventricles to thicken. Once the ventricle walls are thickened, blood flow gets blocked.

Then, in February 2018, Criss was at a high risk of cardiac arrest due to HCM. So, the doctors implanted a cardioverter defibrillator under her skin. The cardioverter defibrillator is a small device that shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm when it starts to beat irregularly.

Knowing that three members of the same family suffered from the same condition, Criss was frightened for her children – daughter Sariah and sons Braxton and Avery. Were they at high risk for HCM? Or like her, did they have HCM? To seek answers to her questions, Criss arranged genetic tests for her kids. All three were tested negative for the genetic mutation related to HCM. The good news was celebrated with some ice cream and joyful smiles.

“The disease literally stops with me,” Criss said.

Kristen’s experience goes on to show the power of genetic testing. Most people around the world are still unaware of the more than 6000 genetic disorders and how they can impact our lives. Hence, it’s essential to seek genetic counselling to understand our risk for genetic disorders. You can seek genetic consultation in India at truGeny. The healthcare company not only offers genetic counselling, but also genetic tests to determine your risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. “Genetic Testing for Inherited Heart Disease