It is poorly understood why, in the same household where all of the children experience infection with streptococcus, only some children will get rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.
In 2012, Namibian researchers were invited to participate in an exciting international collaborative study known as 'RHD Gen - the Genetics of Rheumatic Heart Disease'. This study was funded by the Wellcome Trust and conducted in collaboration with workers at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and 6 other African countries.
The current hypothesis being explored in this study is that certain people have factors in their DNA that protect them from the complications of rheumatic heart disease. To this end, in Namibia we recruited 330 patients with RHD and compared their genetic material with 330 healthy controls. Controls are persons without heart disease.
The analysis of the DNA samples is a complicated and lengthy procedure and the results of this ground-breaking investigation are still awaited.
This is part of a global attempt to develop a vaccine against the bacteria that causes rheumatic fever.
Genetics of Rheumatic Heart Disease