Genomics and infectious disease: A call to identify the ethical, legal and social implications for public health and clinical practice

Gail Geller, Rachel Dvoskin, Chloe L. Thio, Priya Duggal, Michelle H. Lewis, Theodore C. Bailey, Andrea Sutherland, Daniel A. Salmon, Jeffrey P. Kahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Advances in genomics are contributing to the development of more effective, personalized approaches to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Genetic sequencing technologies are furthering our understanding of how human and pathogen genomic factors - and their interactions - contribute to individual differences in immunologic responses to vaccines, infections and drug therapies. Such understanding will influence future policies and procedures for infectious disease management. With the potential for tailored interventions for particular individuals, populations or subpopulations, ethical, legal and social implications (ELSIs) may arise for public health and clinical practice. Potential considerations include balancing health-related benefits and harms between individuals and the larger community, minimizing threats to individual privacy and autonomy, and ensuring just distribution of scarce resources. In this Opinion, we consider the potential application of pathogen and host genomic information to particular viral infections that have large-scale public health consequences but differ in ELSI-relevant characteristics such as ease of transmission, chronicity, severity, preventability and treatability. We argue for the importance of anticipating these ELSI issues in advance of new scientific discoveries, and call for the development of strategies for identifying and exploring ethical questions that should be considered as clinical, public health and policy decisions are made.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106
JournalGenome Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 18 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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