Public health and genome

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Improving the health of the population by applying knowledge of the genome

In recent years, knowledge of the human genome (in other words the structure of genetic material, including DNA) has increased enormously. Genetic information databases provide us with an insight into how man functions as a whole. Sciensano investigates how this information and knowledge of the human genome and the genome of micro-organisms can contribute to a better understanding of the health of the population. In addition, Sciensano investigates how this information and knowledge can be integrated into the policy for public health, livestock and the veterinary agro-industry.

In this context, Sciensano focuses on developing its capacity in epidemiological and statistical methodology. Sciensano also investigates how knowledge of the genome can be introduced into different situations: for example when monitoring infectious diseases; in survey-based research; and in diagnosis and treatment care. Furthermore, Sciensano contributes to the social debate on, for example, the use of genetic tests in the general population, including: 

  • checking whether someone who wants to have a child is carrying a genetic abnormality that could be passed on to their unborn children (so-called “carrier screening”)
  • the Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) for detecting Down’s syndrome in babies or
  • so-called “Direct-to-Consumer” tests in which a person can obtain genetic information at home using a self-test without the intervention of a doctor.

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