Genetic epidemiology in the developed countries
In the recent past, there has been a renewed interest in genetic epidemiology given the urgent need to understand the trends in non-communicable diseases worldwide and consequently map out mitigation measures. The countries in Europe have been forerunners in such studies. This is mainly attributed to technological advancement and availability of resources in Europe. The high incidences of genetic conditions such as hemophilia and Down’s syndrome in Europe could also be a motivation for more research to be carried in an attempt to find cures for this condition. In a recent study, Czech Republic and Slovenia were found to have the highest number of published works during a review of 2518 papers that were drawn from the Pub med database. The papers that were reviewed included those that were drawn from the journal of genetic epidemiology. The search encompassed papers that were available in English. .
The same study established that countries such as Luxembourg, Estonia, Malta, Poland and Lithuania were lagging behind since no published research on biogenetics could be found. There are various reasons for the lack of public works on biogenetics from this country. These countries have a low GDP hence are disadvantaged in terms of the facilities and funding that is necessary for biogenetic research. Most of them were not EU member states at the time of the review. They do not have access to EU grants which would ease the financial burden that comes along with research. In the past, EU was more focused on applied and extension research. There is an intensive process prior to the acceptance of any scholarly work into European medical journals. Information gained from the British Medical Journal shows that there is a low acceptance of scholarly works from eastern and central countries. This presents a challenge for countries that are not native English speakers since they have to go through the rigorous process of translating their work.
Importance of genetic epidemiology to public health
The greatest benefit of genetic epidemiology to public health is genetic screening. There are several forms of screening that could be carried out which include recessive carrier screening and pharmacogenetic screening. Couples intending to have children or those who are expecting children can undergo recessive carrier screening in order to determine if they are carriers of recessive genes that could result in a condition such as hemophilia and Down’s syndrome. This allows the couple to make informed choices on conception and pregnancy. In the USA, screening for cystic fibrosis recessive genes is quite common. However, there are concerns about the cost effectiveness of the procedure and the ethical implications on the foetus.
In some cases, an individual may develop a severe reaction to a particular drug due to the mutations in genes that are involved in the metabolism of drugs or drug receptors. Such reactions can be avoided and lives saved through pharmacogenetic testing. For instance, malignant hyperthermia is a rare genetic disorder that is the result of the interaction between anesthetics and muscle relaxants with mutant genes. It would therefore be advisable to carry out screening in order to prevent the development of the disease in susceptible individuals. Such tests are known to be quite expensive hence are not often carried out.
In conclusion, genetic epidemiology has led to the advancement of genetic screening that has not only saved lives but also prevented certain diseases.
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Khoury, Muin, J., Julian, L., Burke, & Wylie. (2003 ). Human genome epidemiology:A scientific foundation for using genetic information to improve health and prevent disease. Oxford : Oxford University Press .
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Smith, G. D., Ebrahim, S., Lewis, S., Hansell, A. L., Palmer, L. J., & Burton, P. R. (2005). Genetic epidemiology and public health: hope, hype, and. Lancet , 1484-98.