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The Promise of Personalized Medicine


Part of the promise of personalized medicine is that patients will get treatments tailored to their specific genomic profile and situation. That is, of course, dependent upon physicians knowing to order such tests and being able to interpret the results in light of their patients' particular cases. And it's not clear that they do. A number of studies, including a 2011 Genetics in Medicine study from Baylor College of Medicine researchers, have reported that many physicians do not properly interpret genetic tests and their implications. Further, a survey of medical genetics course directors or deans published in Academic Medicine found that while most respondents taught medical genetics during the first year of med school, most of those courses — 86 percent — focused on general concepts rather than applications.

That's not to say efforts are not being made to educate physicians about genetics and genomics. They are. And in this month's cover story, which begins on page 24, Turna Ray discusses a number of initiatives — from medical school courses to vendor efforts — aimed at making physicians more comfortable applying genetic and genomic knowledge to their practices. However, Turna notes, there are other stumbling blocks, including reimbursement issues and a lack of time, that may also prevent doctors from implementing personalized medicine.

Elsewhere in this month's issue, Andrea Anderson takes a look at recent work taking advantage of sequencing advances to characterize a number of microbial communities. Cheaper sequencers and more refined techniques are allowing researchers to not only study the microbes living in and on the human body, but also ones living in soil and in home and hospital environments.

And for this month's Q&A, Matt Jones speaks with the National Human Genome Research Institute's Ben Berkman, who recently published a paper discussing the ethical questions raised by prenatal whole-genome sequencing. Berkman tells Matt that thought needs to be put into how such testing is adopted.

The Scan

Purnell Choppin Dies

Purnell Choppin, a virologist who led the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has died at 91, according to the Washington Post.

Effectiveness May Decline, Data From Israel Suggests

The New York Times reports that new Israeli data suggests a decline in Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine effectiveness against Delta variant infection, though protection against severe disease remains high.

To See Future Risk

Slate looks into the use of polygenic risk scores in embryo screening.

PLOS Papers on Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus, Bone Marrow Smear Sequencing, More

In PLOS this week: genomic analysis of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, archived bone marrow sequencing, and more.