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Precision for the Population

Researchers and charitable organizations are hoping to bring "precision public health" to Africa, Nature News reports.

Rather than tailoring treatments to individuals — which is expensive — this approach would instead take the genomic makeup of a country or region into consideration when drawing up treatment programs.

For instance, Nature News recounts that when Zimbabwe switched from a three-drug HIV cocktail to a cheaper single-pill combination therapy, many Zimbabweans stopped taking the pill. It adds that this was not a surprise to the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology's Collen Masimirembwa. He had previously found that some 20 percent of the population harbors two copies of a gene variant that affects their ability to break one of the drugs in the pill down, which leads them to suffer hallucinations and depression.

Such knowledge could be applied to other scenarios, Nature News says, as long as more genomic research is done in Africa, on Africans. It adds that the Human Heredity and Health in Africa Initiative, which aims to bolster genomic research there, is beginning to publish results.

"These insights could lead to better treatment for Africans and people of recent African descent, and perhaps result in discoveries about human genetics," it adds.