Endogamy, consanguinity and community genetics
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Biomedical and Sports Science
The population of India is composed of many thousands of subpopulations, divided by geography, language, religion and caste or biraderi (patrilineage) boundaries, with endogamous marriage the norm. The net effect has been the creation of multiple genetic isolates with individual mutation profiles, but to date the clinical consequences of this highly complex differentiation have been largely ignored. In contrast, the topic of consanguinity continues to attract attention among medical and population geneticists, clinicians and social scientists. The significant progress made in India in improving childhood nutritional status and combating infectious disease means that genetic disorders have assumed ever increasing importance. In populations where consanguineous marriage is widely practised, recessive genetic disorders will continue to gain greater prominence in the overall spectrum of ill health. At the same time this increase will in part be negated by urbanization and the move to smaller family sizes, which predictably will result in a decline in the prevalence of consanguineous unions. Developing an understanding of these changes will require a wide-ranging and multidisciplinary investigative approach for which community genetics is ideally suited.