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A cystic fibrosis carrier is a person who has the mutation that causes cystic fibrosis in his or her genes but does not have the disease. Each person has two cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator genes. If there is one normal cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator gene and the other is mutated, the person is a carrier. A person whose cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator genes are both mutated will have cystic fibrosis.
In order for a child to be born with cystic fibrosis, the child must inherit a mutated gene from each parent. This means that a child cannot be born with cystic fibrosis unless both parents are carriers. If the child only inherits one mutated cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator gene from either the mother or the father, the child will be a cystic fibrosis carrier. Even if both parents are carriers, the child will not necessarily end up having cystic fibrosis or even being a cystic fibrosis carrier because the child could inherit the one normal gene from both parents.
There are no health risks associated with being a cystic fibrosis carrier. Many people go their whole lives without even knowing they are carriers. Couples who are trying to conceive or who have recently gotten pregnant may undergo genetic testing via saliva or blood to determine if either of them is a carrier. Since there are many different kinds of mutations, a few rare ones may go undetected by carrier testing. If both parents are carriers, the fetus can be tested for the disease while still in the womb if the parents wish to do so.
Anyone can be a cystic fibrosis carrier, but it is more common for Caucasians to have the mutated gene. People of Asian descent are the least likely to carry the trait. Different carriers have different mutations, which can lead to different symptoms and levels of severity of cystic fibrosis for a child born with the disease.
Babies born with cystic fibrosis require special medical care, which is one reason many parents choose to find out if they are cystic fibrosis carriers before the birth. If both parents are carriers and the child has cystic fibrosis, parents can prepare by consulting with doctors and specialists to prepare for the treatment the child will require. Although there is no cure for cystic fibrosis, many people with the disease live into their 40s or 50s with proper care and medications.