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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Bull World Health Organ vol.80 n.6 Genebra Jun. 2002 

WHO News

New report explains how genome research is transforming the world's prospects for health

WHO has just published a major report entitled Genomics and world health. It explains how genetic research can lead to major advances in the coming years in the fight against disease, and reviews the ethical questions this new branch of medicine brings with it. They range from the use of DNA to select the sex of children to the need to ensure that all countries benefit from the medical advances expected. An international team of 14 eminent doctors, researchers and ethicists spent the past year preparing the report. The lead writer is Sir David Weatherall, of the Institute of Molecular Medicine of Oxford University. "This is the first ever report to put genomic research in a global perspective," he said. "The Report anticipates how the global community could use genetics to attack the unfinished agenda of infectious diseases such as malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS that are killing so many in the developing world, and eventually the diseases that are crippling the health care systems of all countries, like heart disease, diabetes and cancer."

DNA research mentioned in the report includes work on engineering a mosquito that cannot carry the malaria parasite, antimalarials that are effective against multidrug-resistant parasites, two new types of vaccine against TB, a meningitis B vaccine being developed in Cuba, clinical trials in Nairobi and Oxford on a DNA-based AIDS vaccine candidate, and pharmacogenetics to identify those who will respond well to certain therapeutics such as anti-HIV drugs in West Africa.

The report advocates setting up a global health research fund to accelerate the work of turning these and a large number of other emerging possibilities into realities. Free downloading and information from