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Researchers undertake South African genome for diabetes and heart disease health risk

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By Ashok Ramsarup :: The concern is mounting as diabetes takes the people of Indian origin in South Africa to a new talking point in the country’s fledgeling democracy in the 21st century.  This has emerged during discussions with the genetics group –  KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) at the SA AIDS conference underway in Durban.

KRISP Director Professor Tulio de Oliveira, has been direct and forthright that new statistics are emerging that  Indian South Africans are more prone to diabetes.   Professor de Oliveira has been upbeat as new methodology finally arrived in South Africa that needs to be adopted in decoding the South African Indian Genome for Health Risk.

He said the aim of the initiative was to produce and analyse whole genomes in order to understand the genetic basis of diabetes and heart disease in the country.   “The ultimate objective of new research is to promote an awareness of the leading causes of mortality especially among South African Indians and to identify biomarkers that can prevent it.

Professor de Oliveira stated that diabetes was a growing problem in South Africa, but South African Indians were at three times the risk of other race groups.  In addition, he said,  diabetes and Ischaemic Heart disease occur at least a decade younger in Indians than in other populations in the country.

“Both these diseases are the leading cause of death within the Indian population.  Also poor dietary and exercise are among the contributory factors that lead to increased disease risk.

“Our goal is to provide an opportunity for successful individuals and business to make contributions to this medical research project to benefit people as South Africa continues to celebrate its 25 years of democracy,” said Professor de Olivieira.

KRISP, in association with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and the South African Medical Council (SAMRC) has set the ball in motion in encouraging  various roleplayers,  health officials, government and business to fund the innovative project on the 19th July to chart the way forward.

As Professor de Olivieira said the final analysis was to promote awareness of the leading causes of mortality in South African Indians and provide the opportunity for successful individuals and business to make contributions to this medical research project.

“According to statistics, about 76% of diabetes deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa occur in people younger than 60-years-old, the most economically active demographic segment of the population. In addition to diabetes and heart disease,  the organisation will also highlight how the team is using genomics to unlock the African genome in relation to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

“In keeping with the training of the next generation of scientists in Africa, KRISP which was established in 2017, will be targeting the youth in technological advancement to produce and analyse genomics data with speed in keeping with the world standards,” added Professor de Oliveira.

CAPRISA Director Professor  Salim Abdool Karim, who is an internationally acclaimed clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist is the keynote speaker at the forthcoming talks.  He is also a professor of Global Health at Columbia University in the United States and a fellow of the Royal Society in Britain. Professor  Karim was a recipient of the Al Sumait Award in the fight against HIV/Aids in Africa.

Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa 🇿🇦 

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