GENETIC conditions linked to marriages between cousins remain a factor in a significant proportion of child deaths in Bradford.

Bradford’s Child Death Overview Panel has recently released its annual report, which suggests that “genetic counselling” and ensuring families are made aware of the risks of consanguineous marriages could help reduce the number of children who die of genetic disorders at a young age.

The report looks at the period from April 2017 to March 2018 - a period in which 58 child deaths were reported to the Bradford child death review team.

When a child dies in Bradford, the panel aims to review their tragic death within 12 months. Last year 69 child deaths were reviewed. These reviews included 29 deaths that occurred in 2017/18, 33 deaths that occurred in 2016/17, and seven deaths that occurred in previous years.

Over two thirds of these deaths, 67 per cent, involved children under the age of one, most of whom died in 28 days.

The report says South-Asian children were “over represented” in the figures compared to the population of the Bradford district - with 45 (65 per cent) of the children being of South Asian heritage. Overall people of South Asian heritage make up just 37 per cent of the district’s under 18 population.

Thirty of the 69 deaths reviewed (43 per cent) were categorised as chromosomal, genetic and congenital anomalies. Such conditions are more common in families where the parents are related.

The report adds: “South-Asian children are over-represented particularly in Category 7 deaths (genetic conditions). Genetic conditions can occur across all families due to sporadic, autosomal recessive/autosomal dominant or X-linked causes. In addition, some cases are not known as it is not possible to identify the cause.

“Around one third of all Category 7 deaths in Bradford are autosomal recessive in nature, and this type of condition is twice as likely to occur if the couple are consanguineous than in the whole population; also, in some families where the rare genes which cause autosomal recessive conditions are common and cousin marriage has been practised for several generations the risk can be much higher.

“Consanguinity is common in South-Asian families locally and 53 per cent of all South Asian children who died due to Category 7 as a whole are from families who have married their cousin.”

Other risk factors in child deaths include obesity and smoking. The Council runs an Every Baby Matters service that offers advice to parents, including on genetic disorders.