A comprehensive and long-range monitoring of genetic testing is ongoing in Italy starting from 1987. The data collected by the last survey of year 2004, on behalf of the Italian Society of Human Genetics, included the activities of 88 clinical centres and 160 cytogenetic and 183 molecular genetic laboratories, hosted by 256 structures. Only 42% of them fulfilled the requirements of current Italian legislation. Genetic tests included 283 601 cytogenetic analyses. There have been 120 238 invasive prenatal samplings, 84% of which were amniocenteses. A significant north-to-south decreasing gradient was evident for all activities. This study has also surveyed 190 610 molecular genetic tests. CFTR gene analysis accounted for 23% of prenatal and 29% of postnatal molecular tests. In total, 420 different genes have been investigated, 10 of which comprised three-quarters of the whole activity. More than 10% of molecular tests were performed on fetal samples, the analysis of CFTR, DMD, FMR1, FMR2, and GJB2 genes accounting for 83% of all prenatal tests. In years 1997-2004, the demand of cytogenetic tests has increased two-fold and that of molecular tests has increased four-fold. Only 16% of cytogenetic and 12.5% of molecular tests have been followed by genetic counselling. This survey highlights the need for a major basic intervention in the general organisation of genetic structures in Italy, which should be rationalised in accordance with the national guidelines, and the necessity of constant training of general practitioners and education of consumers to the appropriate use of genetic testing.
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