Psychiatric genetics in South Africa: Cutting a rough diamond

Wright G.E.B. ; Niehaus D.J.H. ; Koen L. ; Drogemoller B.I. ; Warnich L. (2011)


Psychiatric disorders place a considerable healthcare burden on South African society. Incorporating genetic technologies into future treatment plans offers a potential mechanism to reduce this burden. This review focuses on psychiatric genetic research that has been performed in South African populations with regards to obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Preliminary findings from these studies suggest that data obtained in developed countries cannot necessarily be extrapolated to South African population groups. Psychiatric genetic studies in South Africa seem to involve relatively low-cost methodologies and only a limited number of large national collaborative studies. Future research in South Africa should therefore aim to incorporate highthroughput technologies into large scale psychiatric studies through the development of collaborations. On a global level, the vast majority of psychiatric genetic studies have been performed in non-African populations. South Africa, as the leading contributor to scientific research in Africa, may provide a foundation for addressing this disparity and strengthening psychiatric genetic research on the continent. Although the elucidation of the genetic architecture of psychiatric disorders has proved challenging, examining the unique genetic profiles found in South African populations could provide valuable insight into the genetics of psychiatric disorders.

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