A simple blood test to detect a mutant gene that causes cystic fibrosis - a chronic respiratory disorder that usually kills victims before the age of 40 - is not included in the basket of health services subsidized by the government, along with many other important medical technologies. The Israel CF Society is holding a fund-raising campaign on Tuesday to help in the fight against the disease and to raise public awareness about it. There are 360,000 carriers of the defective gene and 560 CF patients in Israel. There is a 1/5,000 risk of being a carrier of the gene, which is much more common among Jews of Ashkenazi origin and Arabs. Jews of Iraqi origin are also at higher risk, but the mutation that causes cystic fibrosis in this group has not been identified. More than half of CF victims are children, as the average life expectancy is 37. The CF Society calls on young people to undergo testing (albeit at their own expense) before becoming pregnant so carriers can receive genetic counselling in advance. According to the Health Ministry, most genetic tests occur after a woman becomes pregnant. Many women with a fetus that has cystic fibrosis decide to abort it. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system; the defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections, obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. The monthly cost of treatment - which is largely financed by the CF Society - is NIS 10,000; only a minority is subsidized by the state. In addition to antibiotics and other medications to prevent or fight infections, patients need a visit at least once a month in the hospital for physiotherapy, nutritional advice and psychosocial support. Some lucky patients undergo lung transplants. Funds can be donated and more information can be obtained from the society at www.cff.org.il or by calling (03) 670-2323.