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International Birth Defects Information Systems
Omni-Net Ukraine Birth Defects Prevention Program

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"Elevated Rates of NTD and Conjoined Twins in Polissya, a Region Impacted by Chornobyl"

Wertelecki, W., Yevtushok, L., Zymak-Zakutnya, N., Polishchuk, S., Yuskiv, N., Lapchenko, S.

OMNI-Net Ukrainian Birth Defects Program, Rivne, Ukraine and
Department of Medical Genetics, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, U.S.A.

Abstract submitted to the 48th European Society of Paediatric Research Conference

Background and Aims:

The OMNI-Net Ukrainian birth defects program was established in 1998 to determine birth defects prevalence and to promote care, early intervention and prevention programs.


Birth defects population surveillance systems applying international standards and quality control methods were established in three regions of Ukraine (Rivne, Volyn and Khmelnytsky - the first 2 are northwestern provinces and the third adjoins them from the south). Nearly half of northern Rivne and Volyn are historically known as Polissia, a boggy, forested region heavily impacted by Chornobyl ionizing radiation.


The 2000-2005 NTD prevalence ranged from 21 to 22 per 10,000 live births. Prevalence in Polissia, compared to non-Polissia regions, was 28 and 20 respectively (prevalence in Khmelnytsky was also 20). In addition, 6 instances of conjoined twinning were noted in the Rivne oblast (~ 14,000 live births per year - none were detected in Volyn or Khmelnytsky). The conjoined twins were noted twice in 2000 and once in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 (1 twin had spina bifida).


To further elucidate the implications of the observations reported, a "Polissia Initiative" was formulated calling for international experts to join Ukrainian research teams. Much of the population in Polissia inhabits small villages which can be regarded as natural experimental models to investigate reproductive and genetic aspects of health in context of consumption of diets poor in micronutrients and contaminated by diverse levels of Cs-137.

Date of report: May 3, 2007

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