Kuwait has a cosmopolitan population of 1.7 million, mostly Arabs. This population is a mosaic of large and small minorities representing most Arab communities. In general, Kuwait's population is characterized by a rapid rate of growth, large family size, high rates of consanguineous marriages within the Arab communities with low frequency of intermarriage between them, and the presence of genetic isolates and semi-isolates in some extended families and Bedouin tribes. Genetic services have been available in Kuwait for over a decade. During this time it has become clear that Arabs have a high frequency of genetic disorders, and in particular autosomal recessive traits. Their pattern is unique and some disorders are relatively common. Examples are Bardet-Biedl and Meckel syndromes, phenylketonuria, and familial Mediterranean fever. A relatively large number of new syndromes and variants have been delineated in Kuwait's population, many being the result of homozygosity for autosomal recessive genes that occurred because of inbreeding. Some of these syndromes have subsequently been found in other parts of the world, negating the concept of the private syndrome. This paper provides an overview of autosomal recessive disorders among the Arabs in Kuwait from a personal perspective and published studies, and highlights the need for genetic services in Arab countries with the goal of prevention and treatment of genetic disorders.
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