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October 01, 2003

HBD & SARS

SARS susceptibility may have a genetic element according to a new study (the full report is availabe at the link, a newspaper article for the more timid). Here is the conclusion:


Densely populated regions with genetically related southern Asian populations appear to be more affected by the spreading of SARS infection. Up until recently, no probable SARS patients were reported among Taiwan indigenous peoples who are genetically distinct from the Taiwanese general population, have no HLA-B*4601 and have high frequency of HLA-B*1301. While increase of HLA-B*4601 allele frequency was observed in the "Probable SARS infected" patient group, a further significant increase of the allele was seen in the "Severe cases" patient group. These results appeared to indicate association of HLA-B*4601 with the severity of SARS infection in Asian populations. Independent studies are needed to test these results.

The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system contains more than 100 genes and is highly polymorphic. You have the variety of HLA alleles to thank for tissue rejection. HLA even has transpecies polymorphisms, so you may have a variant that is more genetically similar to a chimpanzee than your next door neigbhor (ever wonder about the wack projects to use pig hearts?). The connection of race to health is crucial, at least before full genomic sequencing becomes cheap, especially for people of small racial minorities.... (I wonder when SARSPundit will comment)

Posted by razib at 01:53 PM




In medicine, when you present a patient's medical history to another doctor or in writing, you start with basic identifying information: "68 yo white female with a history of myocardial infarction," "45 yo HIV-positive black male," etc.

There is an ongoing, neverending controversy about whether to include racial information in this presentation -- and if so, where to include it. Traditionally, it has been right up front, as I wrote in the examples. There have been a lot of objections lately that this "biases" the hearer to expect certain kinds of diseases and favor certain diagnoses. Researchers have found that if you give subjects (MD's) the same patient story, but change the race, they'll often come to different conclusions about likely diagnoses.

People get in big arguments over this. Someone frequently will mention that "race is an artificial construct."

Posted by: Claudia at October 5, 2003 05:22 PM


Thanks! Excellent article.

Posted by: Claudia at October 5, 2003 09:07 PM