By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Tay-Sachs disease is widely known as a genetic disorder among Jews, but a new study is exploring the risk in another group: The Irish.

Genetic testing is routine for potential parents of Jewish descent to identify the risk for the rare but fatal disorder that often kills children before their 5th birthday.

But after three recent cases of Tay-Sachs turned up in the Irish population in the Philadelphia area, it got Einstein Medical Center’s director of clinical genetics Dr. Adele Schneider wondering.

“It raised the question to me, ‘What is the carrier rate for Tay-Sachs in the Irish population?’ because we always test Jewish people for it, and never test the Irish.”

Einstein is launching a program to screen 1,000 people of with at least three of four Irish grandparents, to try to quantify the risk for Tay-Sachs.

The free blood tests begin Wednesday in Philadelphia. Schneider says the screenings will expand to Boston and New York over the next two years.

For more information CLICK HERE or call 484-636-4197.

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