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Omni-Net Ukraine Birth Defects Prevention Program

International Birth Defects Information Systems

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"Elevated Prevalence of NTD and Conjoined Twins in a Chornobyl Impacted Region of Ukraine"

Lyubov Yevtushok1, Nataliya Zymak-Zakutnya1, Svitlana Polishchuk1, Nataliya Yuskiv1, Serhiy Lapchenko1, Godfrey P. Oakley2, Wladimir Wertelecki3

1 OMNI-Net Ukrainian Birth Defects Program, Rivne, Ukraine;
2 Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.;
3 Department of Medical Genetics, University South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, U.S.A.

Abstract submitted to the European Teratology Society

From 2000-2005, the prevalence (P) of neural tube defects (NTD) in northwestern Ukraine (Rivne and Volyn oblasts) was elevated and ranged between 21 and 22 per 10,000 live births. The P in Khmelnytsky oblast (adjoining to the south) was also ~ 20.

NTD P was higher (28) in the Chornobyl-impacted northern raions (counties) of Rivne - Volyn, a region collectively known as Polissia.

From 2000-2005 a cluster of five sets of conjoined twins were noted only in the Rivne oblast (~ 14,000 live births yearly). Half of the conjoined twins were born in raions heavily impacted by Chornobyl, and one twin had spina bifida.

The OMNI-Net Ukrainian Birth Defects Program, with other Ukrainian and international partners, are proposing a "Polissia Initiative" to expand ongoing investigations through further partnerships.

Polissia consists mostly of wetlands inhabited by a population living mostly in small villages and relying on local foodstuffs, milk, wild mushrooms, berries and the use of local wood for fuel. Measurements in April 2007 show that radioactivity levels, including Cs-137, remain high. Anecdotal reports suggest that diets are deficient in micronutrients including folic acid. The relatively isolated village populations under birth defects surveillance can be regarded as a natural model for further investigations of reproductive and genetic aspects of health, both human and non-human.

Resource centers and OMNI-Net teams in the capital cities of Rivne and Volyn facilitate access to Polissia and to diagnostic centers.

Date of report: May 25, 2007

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