For nearly all of 2020, COVID-19 and its health consequences have been front and center. Not a single day goes by without some sort of reminder that our world is in a state of global pandemic.
Although the scientific and medical communities continue to learn more about COVID-19, there is still little known about the risks for morbidity and mortality that the pandemic carries for different categories of genetic disorders.
Genetics centers worldwide have been documenting successful accounts of continuity of care for patients with genetic disorders during COVID-19. However, there exists a broad disparity between the economically affluent countries with well-developed healthcare systems and the under-resourced countries, which often lack access to consistent health care.
In other words, in the low- and middle-income countries, people with COVID-19 that might also have a genetic disorder are often hit with a double whammy.
To address this disparity, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology Faculty Investigator Dr. Elaine Lyon, director of the HudsonAlpha Clinical Services Lab, and Dr. Ghunwa Nakouzi, associate director of the lab, joined colleagues from the American University of Beirut to provide nine recommendations for the care of patients with genetic disorders in low- and middle-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. These recommendations were recently published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.
For Nakouzi, the study hits close to home. Originally from Lebanon, Nakouzi has worked with colleagues at the Beirut university over the past few years to highlight the burden of genetic disorders and address deficiencies in genetic health care in Lebanon and other neighboring low- and middle-income countries.
“These recommendations were meant to provide guidance to health care professionals and the healthcare system in under-resourced countries, like Lebanon, specifically, because that where we have the connection and the direct experience,” said Nakouzi. “In general, as we see here in the United States, which is considered a more developed country, there have been many measures that were taken to facilitate the continuity of care of patients with genetic disorders.
“This continuity of care is possible in such a well-developed health system. Unfortunately, in more under-resourced countries, these measures are not as easily applicable as they would be in a more developed country.”
The recommendations touch on several aspects of genetic care from physician encounters to diagnostic testing to access to treatment, and even to medical research that is already limited in the under-resourced countries. They also serve as a framework to help health care professionals dealing with genetic disorders in these countries, in order to maintain an adequate level of necessary care for patients.
“In the lower- to middle-income countries, there is a lack of resources, that’s the main problem,” said Nakouzi. “Without collaboration, it’s very hard to achieve much of what needs to be achieved. So, there is going to be lots of collaboration that is needed to push forward.”
To read the recommendations in their entirety: https://hudsonalpha.org/hudsonalpha-researchers-provide-recommended-measures-for-the-care-of-patients-with-genetic-disorders-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/