Dwindling numbers: Parsis at the fire temple in Secunderabad.

HYDERABAD: In a bid to understand the genetic factors, which are apparently leading to high incidence of various kinds of ailments among members of the Parsi community, a project named ‘Avesthagenome’ was launched in the twin cities recently.

Bangalore based bio-tech firm Avesthagene will collect blood samples to study the genetic make-up and prepare a data of genealogical and medical database of the Parsi community of Hyderabad. Simultaneously, another effort is being taken up to find out the reasons for the large number of breast cancer cases among women of the community.

Inbreeding

The community consists largely of an inbred population whose numbers are dwindling due to self-imposed discouragement of intercommunity marriages. Members of the community from Hyderabad point out that by rough estimates there are just 70,000 Parsis in the country and 1,200 in Hyderabad.

“Such inbred communities could throw up certain genes, which are causing such ailments. It’s a pilot project, which would be taken up in Bangalore also,” said Anita Francis of Avesthagene. The database would help in predicting diseases and play an important role in development of new therapies in near future, officials maintain.

This is for the first time that such research on ‘Parsi genes’ is being taken up in the country. “We feel that because of intermingling, ailments like cancer, arthritis, backaches and G6PD deficiency in blood occur, which sometimes is fatal,” points out president of the Zoroastrian Club, Rohniton Noria, where a breast cancer awareness campaign was held recently.

Expert clueless

The awareness campaign would be run by breast surgeon of Royal Marsden Hospital at London, P. Raghu Ram. “We don’t know the exact reason for this relatively high incidence of breast cancer among Parsi women.”