Widespread Genetic Link to Sudden Cardiac Death is Found

Genetic variants are more prevalent and diverse than previously thought

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FRIDAY, Jan. 9, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Genetic variants associated with instances of sudden cardiac deaths are far more prevalent and diverse than first thought, especially among minorities.

The findings could mean physicians need to show greater care in diagnosing patients, taking into account that each of the many genetic variants will require different -- and possibly conflicting -- treatments.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic came to this conclusion while studying long QT syndrome, a specific cardiac disorder that may kill as many as 3,000 teenagers and young adults in the United States each year.

During a comprehensive DNA analysis of 744 healthy volunteers from four ethnic groups, the researchers found 49 distinct variants of long QT syndrome. Of those, 36 variants -- 73 percent -- were previously unknown.

Further, one in three blacks and one in seven whites studied were found to harbor at least one variant. Previous studies had estimated the syndrome should be expected in only one out of every 10,000 people.

Researchers do not yet know whether the higher frequency of variance means an increased risk of heart attack.

The findings are reported in the December issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about long QT syndrome.

SOURCES: Mayo Clinic, news release, December 2003

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