Gene detector to prevent child deafness in China
The 21 performers who danced the One Thousand Hands Buddha are admired by the Chinese people because they succeeded in spite of being deaf. Unknown to most who watched, 18 of the dancers became deaf because of inappropriate use of antibiotics.
In China, more than 1 million children become deaf due to misuse of antibiotics such as streptomycin, kanamycin and gentamicin, according to the Chinese Medical Association. But a gene detector, which can identify genes related to deafness, is expected to turn the tide on this problem.
China's State Food and Drug Administration had approved the detector for clinical use. The device will be made available for hospitals across the country, said Cheng Jing, chief technology officer of National Engineering Research Center for Beijing Biochip Technology or CapitalBio Corporation.
"Due to lack of proper equipment, doctors could not tell which patients may become deaf because of the antibiotics they prescribe. Many tragedies will be prevented by use of the device," Cheng said Wednesday.
The device detects nine mutations of four genes, which are responsible for most cases of deafness among the Chinese. Cheng says that a test by the device takes about five hours and costs 500 yuan (76.3 U.S. dollars). "Conventional methods are way more expensive and take at least three days."
The detector can also provide valuable information for both parents-to-be and new parents to prevent deafness in their babies as early as possible, Cheng said. About 30,000 babies are born deaf each year in China.
"We are getting approvals from commercial and medical authorities. The device will gradually become available in most hospitals in China in the coming years. As demand rises, it will become even cheaper in the future," Cheng said.
China has 1.8 million deaf children, 60 percent of them lost their hearing because of drug misuse, Yang Zhiyin, head of the behavioral medicine branch of the Chinese Medical Association told China Daily in January.