Genetic truth telling

One of those “opportunistic” infection agents we heard so much about when HIV became constant headline news more than 10 years ago has come under the scrutiny of science’s latest power-tool, gene mapping. Interestingly, there are two versions of this C. neoformans fungus, one of which caueses brain swelling and death and the other of which doesn’t cause severe infection. So scientists will be mapping both varieties and comparing them–a powerful method of potentially identifying the areas of the gene that contain the virulent material and figuring out how to attack it.

I’ve been watching some CSI reruns on TV. Very informative about the newest tools the crime investigators use. Didn’t realize that these days DNA is a routine test for identifying criminals–oh, yeah, remember the OJ Simpson jury just didn’t get it? DNA evidence doesn’t solve all the issues, though, and the writers are very creative about coming up with medical plot twists.

But clearly our genetic material is becoming more and more an open book. Like the breathalyzer test for alcohol impairment, there will be no covering up certain truths–many of which were heretofore unknowable by authorities. Or by relatives. Or by friends. Good thing the HIPAA laws came along when they did. Given the human penchant for judging and ostracizing those we find lacking–or even just different–protecting our medical privacy has become a societal imperative.

Let’s hope HIPAA works better than our laws against unethical corporate behavior…