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The burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa poses a challenge in achieving quality healthcare. Although therapeutic drugs have generally improved health, their efficacy differs from individual to individual. Variability in treatment response is mainly because of genetic variants that affect the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs.
The intersection of disease burden and therapeutic intervention is reviewed, and the status of pharmacogenomics knowledge in African populations is explored.
The most commonly studied variants with pharmacogenomics relevance are discussed, especially in genes coding for enzymes that affect the response to drugs used for HIV, malaria, sickle cell disease and cardiovascular diseases.
The genetically diverse African population is likely to benefit from a pharmacogenomics-based healthcare approach, especially with respect to reduction of drug side effects, and separation of responders and non-responders leading to optimized drug choices and doses for each patient.
The burden and aetiology of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and its microvascular complications may be influenced by varying behavioural and lifestyle environments as well as by genetic susceptibility. These aspects of the epidemiology of T2D have not been reliably clarified in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), highlighting the need for context-specific epidemiological studies with the statistical resolution to inform potential preventative and therapeutic strategies. Therefore, as part of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) initiative, we designed a multi-site study comprising case collections and population-based surveys at 11 sites in eight countries across SSA. The goal is to recruit up to 6000 T2D participants and 6000 control participants. We will collect questionnaire data, biophysical measurements and biological samples for chronic disease traits, risk factors and genetic data on all study participants. Through integrating epidemiological and genomic techniques, the study provides a framework for assessing the burden, spectrum and environmental and genetic risk factors for T2D and its complications across SSA. With established mechanisms for fieldwork, data and sample collection and management, data-sharing and consent for re-approaching participants, the study will be a resource for future research studies, including longitudinal studies, prospective case ascertainment of incident disease and interventional studies.
The 9th meeting of the African Society of Human Genetics, in partnership with the Senegalese Cancer Research and Study Group and the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Consortium, was held in Dakar, Senegal. The theme was Strengthening Human Genetics Research in Africa. The 210 delegates came from 21 African countries and from France, Switzerland, UK, UAE, Canada and the USA. The goal was to highlight genetic and genomic science across the African continent with the ultimate goal of improving the health of Africans and those across the globe, and to promote the careers of young African scientists in the field. A session on the sustainability of genomic research in Africa brought to light innovative and practical approaches to supporting research in resource-limited settings and the importance of promoting genetics in academic, research funding, governmental and private sectors. This meeting led to the formation of the Senegalese Society for Human Genetics.
A report on the Second H3Africa Ethics Consultation Meeting, which was held in Livingstone, Zambia on 11 May 2015. The meeting demonstrated considerable evolution by African Research Ethics Committees on thinking about broad consent as a consent option for genomics research and biobanking. The meeting concluded with a call for broader engagement with policy makers across the continent in order to help these recognise the need for guidance and regulation where these do not exist and to explore harmonisation where appropriate and possible.
Africa is experiencing a rapid increase in adult obesity and associated cardiometabolic diseases (CMDs). The H3Africa AWI-Gen Collaborative Centre was established to examine genomic and environmental factors that influence body composition, body fat distribution and CMD risk, with the aim to provide insights towards effective treatment and intervention strategies. It provides a research platform of over 10 500 participants, 40–60 years old, from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. Following a process that involved community engagement, training of project staff and participant informed consent, participants were administered detailed questionnaires, anthropometric measurements were taken and biospecimens collected. This generated a wealth of demographic, health history, environmental, behavioural and biomarker data. The H3Africa SNP array will be used for genome-wide association studies. AWI-Gen is building capacity to perform large epidemiological, genomic and epigenomic studies across several African counties and strives to become a valuable resource for research collaborations in Africa.