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BT402 GDB Solution Idea 2021

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Role of genomics in emerging infectious disease:

  • One of the most exciting benefits of genomics and precision medicine is the promise of therapies that are tailored to meet each patient’s specific needs. Providers can access an individual’s genetic code and better determine what sort of treatment is right for him or her, leading to better outcomes and lower costs.
  • Genomic medicine is an emerging medical discipline that involves using genomic information about an individual as part of their clinical care (e.g. for diagnostic or therapeutic decision-making) and the health outcomes and policy implications of that clinical use. Already, genomic medicine is making an impact in the fields of oncology, pharmacology, rare and diagnosed diseases, and infectious disease.
  • Genomic analyses are yielding unprecedented insights into microbial evolution and microbial diversity and are elucidating the extent and complexity of the genetic variation in both host and pathogens that underlies disease.
  • Advances in genomics are contributing to the development of more effective, personalized approaches to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.
  • Genetic sequencing technologies are furthering our understanding of how human and pathogen genomic factors – and their interactions – contribute to individual differences in immunologic responses to vaccines, infections and drug therapies.
  • Such understanding will influence future policies and procedures for infectious disease management. With the potential for tailored interventions for particular individuals, populations or sub populations, ethical, legal and social implications (ELSIs) may arise for public health and clinical practice. Potential considerations include balancing health-related benefits and harms between individuals and the larger community, minimizing threats to individual privacy and autonomy, and ensuring just distribution of scarce resources.
  • In this Opinion, we consider the potential application of pathogen and host genomic information to particular viral infections that have large-scale public health consequences but differ in ELSI-relevant characteristics such as ease of transmission, chronicity, severity, prevent ability and treat ability. We argue for the importance of anticipating these ELSI issues in advance of new scientific discoveries, and call for the development of strategies for identifying and exploring ethical questions that should be considered as clinical, public health and policy decisions are made.
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