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Family History an 'Informative' Genomic Test?

"Think before you spit," says the US Centers for Disease Control's Muin Khoury to people considering personal genome tests over at the Genomics and Health Impact blog. Khoury, who directs CDC's Office of Public Health Genomics, says the agency's "knowledge of the potential benefits and harms of these tests is incomplete at best," echoing sentiments he expressed at the same blog in June. "When deciding whether personal genomic tests are worth your spit," Khoury says it's important first to consider "how well can these tests detect or predict particular health conditions." In the meantime, he adds, there is "very informative and inexpensive 'genomic test' … available to everyone right now: family health history."

In comments to this post, readers voice some criticisms. Alice Rathjen expresses surprise at Khoury's suggestions, saying "I would think they [CDC] would want as many people as possible to have their raw SNP datasets so that in the event there was an epidemic — genetic information could possibly be used to prioritize care for the population and/or identify and mitigate adverse or positive responses to vaccines or treatments." Commenter Mary points out that not every patient has access to his or her family history. "I know a lot of adopted families and information is not always available to them. And I also know plenty of genetic families with limited access to information for various reasons," she says.

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