Genetic test to fly safe

Published: Thursday 15 March 2001

Pre-flight genetic testing could help guard against flight-related deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Flight-related DVT occurs when a passenger's blood clots sitting in cramped conditions. The condition can be fatal if the clots reach the lung. Gillian Turner, a medical geneticist at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, says people planning a long haul flight should consider being tested for a mutation in a blood clotting-related gene. The gene that codes Factor V, a protein that is invloved in the process of blood clotting, undergoes mutation. After mutation it is called Factor V Leiden. The mutation is very common, occurring in roughly one in every 20 people and increases the chances of blood clots formation. Between 20 and 50 per cent of people who get DVT following long-haul flights or being bed-bound in hospital for long carry the mutation. If travellers are detected carrying the gene, they could then take simple precautions such as drinking plenty of water or taking aspirin. The test for Factor V Leiden is relatively cheap and quick.

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