Pilbara Aboriginal children could receive quicker diagnosis and treatment for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and other rare diseases under a world-first WA health project.
Medical researchers hope the key to the improved diagnoses will be fast, non-invasive 3-D facial photographs taken in GP clinics across the Pilbara.
Under an agreement announced last Friday, WA researchers will next year take a step towards making the technology widely available by building a world-first library of 3D facial images of Pilbara Aboriginal children.
Called Pilbara Faces, the project is spearheaded by Genetic Services WA teams at Perth’s King Edward Memorial and Princess Margaret Hospitals.
Project leader Dr Gareth Baynan said the 3D images could identify subtle variations in facial contours, often imperceptible to the naked eye, which could be markers of disease.
“Approximately one third of genetic and rare diseases are thought to have (these sorts of) subtle facial clues,” he said.
With specialists estimating there are up to 8000 rare diseases, Dr Baynam said they affected about one in 12 Australians, or 190,000 West Australians.