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Friday, February 23, 2024

Role of genetics in infectious disease spread

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Saadeqa Khan
Saadeqa Khan
Saadeqa Khan is the founder, CEO, & Editor-in-Chief of Scientia Pakistan. She's a member of the Oxford Climate Journalism Network (Second Cohort) and NASW. Saadeqa is a fellow of NPF Washington, The Falling Walls Foundation, and the Science Journalism Forum. Saadeqa has won several international journalism grants and awards for her reports.

Infectious diseases account for a significant part of the global health problem, with most of the burden falling on developing countries like Pakistan. More than 15 million deaths per year are due to infectious diseases.

Since identifying sickle cell trait as a heritable form of resistance to malaria, candidate gene studies, linkage analysis paired with sequencing, and genome-wide association (GWA) studies have revealed many examples of genetic resistance and susceptibility to infectious diseases.
GWA studies enable the identification of several most occurring variants associated with slight shifts in susceptibility to infectious diseases. This is exemplified by multiple loci related to leprosy, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, and COVID-19, illuminating genetic architecture and implicating pathways underlying pathophysiology.

The significance of genetics in understanding infectious diseases has now been realized. It is found that the genetic makeup of a person or population can play a vital role in determining susceptibility to contagious diseases.

The genetic diversity of specific populations can affect how quickly and widely a particular pathogen spreads. Now with modern tools and sophisticated technologies, by analyzing the genetic diversity of a pathogen, researchers can better predict infectious disease outbreaks and gain better insight into the genetics behind contagious diseases.

Despite technological advances, many challenges are associated with understanding the genetic components of infectious diseases.
Several other factors, such as environment, climate change, weather patterns, antibiotic resistance and misinformation, are vital in spreading infectious diseases worldwide.
In today’s world, conspiracy theories often overlap scientific facts, and unreliable sources are valued more than professional insight or authentic sources. Mostly fake facts dilute scientifically proven facts, and social media plays a crucial role.

In Pakistan, people still believe in myths and resist facts which give rise to the spread of infectious diseases, especially in rural and far-flung areas due to poverty and illiteracy. People mostly refuse preventive treatments such as vaccination, hygiene and sanitary requirements, spraying etc. These preventive measures can minimize the spread of viral diseases. Even in urban areas, people oppose modern techniques and are prone to traditional medicines known as folk medicines. They have been passed on and practised from generation to generation, and people believe in them more than advancements in medical science.

In order to curb the myths surrounding the spread of infectious diseases and give a better understanding of healthcare, Scientia Pakistan magazine brings its exclusive edition on the theme “Genetics and Infectious diseases”.

We got engaging stories on chronic diseases, An interplay of infections and our genome, Cure for HIV/AIDS with stem cell transplantation, Leishmaniasis spread in Pakistan, Pros and cons of genetic engineering, Infectious diseases in microgravity and much more. We exclusively interviewed Dr Alex Dainis, a PhD in genetics and famous science communicator/ Vlogger.

Summing up, the edition will briefly explain genetics’ role in spreading infectious diseases worldwide. Have an excellent read!

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