Posted on May 13, 2009, 12 p.m.
By gary clark
Significant genetic differences between Latin Americans of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry and other known genetic subgroups may explain why more Mexicans died from the H1N1 Influenza A virus, preliminary findings of a study has found.
In a landmark study conducted by Mexico's National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN), researchers examined the genetic composition of 300 Mexican Mestizos - people of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry who represent more than 80 percent of Mexico's population - from six geographically distant states in Mexico. They also looked at 30 members of Amerindian descent from the indigenous Zapotecas group in the state of Oaxaca. As they discovered, the genetic make-up of these two populations is significantly different from three other known human genetic subgroups documented through the historic International HapMap Project.
The goal of the research was to determine the "comparability of Latino genomes to others in the global search for health-related genes throughout humanity." While their findings are preliminary, the results of the study may one day help explain why the H1N1 flu was deadlier in Mexico. Says Dr. Gerardo Jimenez-Sanchez of INMEGEN, who led the research team, "It is not possible today to say genetic variation is responsible for the unique H1N1 Influenza A mortality rate in Mexico. However, knowledge of genomic variability in the Mexican population can allow the identification of genetic variations that confer susceptibility to common diseases, including infections such as the flu." And he adds, "It will also help develop pharmacogenomics to help produce medicines tailored to people of a specific genetic group, to the creation of drugs that are both safer and more effective."
INMEGEN was established in 2004 under then-Health Minister Dr. Julio Frenk, who is currently the Dean of the School of Public Health at Harvard University. As Dr. Frenk notes, "This study makes clear that Latin Americans with mixed ancestry are different enough from other people worldwide that a full-scale genomic mapping project would be wise both scientifically and economically. It would allow doctors to analyze fewer genetic markers when diagnosing the risk that a patient will develop a disease that depends on complex factors." The findings were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
News Release: Landmark study reveals significant genetic variation between Mexico's population and world's other known genetic subgroups www.sciencedaily.com May 12, 2009