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1.  Meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in five cohorts reveals common variants in RBFOX1, a regulator of tissue-specific splicing, associated with refractive error 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(13):2754-2764.
Visual refractive errors (REs) are complex genetic traits with a largely unknown etiology. To date, genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of moderate size have identified several novel risk markers for RE, measured here as mean spherical equivalent (MSE). We performed a GWAS using a total of 7280 samples from five cohorts: the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS); the KORA study (‘Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg’); the Framingham Eye Study (FES); the Ogliastra Genetic Park-Talana (OGP-Talana) Study and the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Genotyping was performed on Illumina and Affymetrix platforms with additional markers imputed to the HapMap II reference panel. We identified a new genome-wide significant locus on chromosome 16 (rs10500355, P = 3.9 × 10−9) in a combined discovery and replication set (26 953 samples). This single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) is located within the RBFOX1 gene which is a neuron-specific splicing factor regulating a wide range of alternative splicing events implicated in neuronal development and maturation, including transcription factors, other splicing factors and synaptic proteins.
PMCID: PMC3674806  PMID: 23474815
2.  The first three years of the Journal of Global Health: Assessing the impact 
Journal of Global Health  2014;4(1):010101.
The Journal of Global Health (JoGH) is three years old. To assess its impact, we analysed online access to JoGH's articles using PubMed Central and Google Analytics tools. Moreover, we tracked citations that JoGH received in 2013 using ISI Web of KnowledgeSM and Google Scholar® tools. The 66 items (articles, viewpoints and editorials) published between June 2011 and December 2013 were accessed more than 50 000 times during 2013, from more than 160 countries of the world. Seven among the 13 most accessed papers were focused on global, regional and national epidemiological estimates of important infectious diseases. JoGH articles published in 2011 and 2012 received 77 citations in Journal Citation Reports® (JCR)–indexed journals in 2013 to 24 original research articles, setting our first, unofficial impact factor at 3.208. In addition, JoGH received 11 citations during 2013 to its 12 original research papers published during 2013, resulting in an immediacy index of 0.917. The number of external, non–commissioned submissions that we consider to be of high quality is continuously increasing, leading to current JoGH's rejection rate of about 80%. The current citation analysis raises favourable expectations for the JoGH's overall impact on the global health community in future years.
PMCID: PMC4073248  PMID: 24976952
3.  A General Approach for Haplotype Phasing across the Full Spectrum of Relatedness 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(4):e1004234.
Many existing cohorts contain a range of relatedness between genotyped individuals, either by design or by chance. Haplotype estimation in such cohorts is a central step in many downstream analyses. Using genotypes from six cohorts from isolated populations and two cohorts from non-isolated populations, we have investigated the performance of different phasing methods designed for nominally ‘unrelated’ individuals. We find that SHAPEIT2 produces much lower switch error rates in all cohorts compared to other methods, including those designed specifically for isolated populations. In particular, when large amounts of IBD sharing is present, SHAPEIT2 infers close to perfect haplotypes. Based on these results we have developed a general strategy for phasing cohorts with any level of implicit or explicit relatedness between individuals. First SHAPEIT2 is run ignoring all explicit family information. We then apply a novel HMM method (duoHMM) to combine the SHAPEIT2 haplotypes with any family information to infer the inheritance pattern of each meiosis at all sites across each chromosome. This allows the correction of switch errors, detection of recombination events and genotyping errors. We show that the method detects numbers of recombination events that align very well with expectations based on genetic maps, and that it infers far fewer spurious recombination events than Merlin. The method can also detect genotyping errors and infer recombination events in otherwise uninformative families, such as trios and duos. The detected recombination events can be used in association scans for recombination phenotypes. The method provides a simple and unified approach to haplotype estimation, that will be of interest to researchers in the fields of human, animal and plant genetics.
Author Summary
Every individual carries two copies of each chromosome (haplotypes), one from each of their parents, that consist of a long sequence of alleles. Modern genotyping technologies do not measure haplotypes directly, but the combined sum (or genotype) of alleles at each site. Statistical methods are needed to infer (or phase) the haplotypes from the observed genotypes. Haplotype estimation is a key first step of many disease and population genetic studies. Much recent work in this area has focused on phasing in cohorts of nominally unrelated individuals. So called ‘long range phasing’ is a relatively recent concept for phasing individuals with intermediate levels of relatedness, such as cohorts taken from population isolates. Methods also exist for phasing genotypes for individuals within explicit pedigrees. Whilst high quality phasing techniques are available for each of these demographic scenarios, to date, no single method is applicable to all three. In this paper, we present a general approach for phasing cohorts that contain any level of relatedness between the study individuals. We demonstrate high levels of accuracy in all demographic scenarios, as well as the ability to detect (Mendelian consistent) genotyping error and recombination events in duos and trios, the first method with such a capability.
PMCID: PMC3990520  PMID: 24743097
4.  Comparative Performance of Four Methods for High-throughput Glycosylation Analysis of Immunoglobulin G in Genetic and Epidemiological Research* 
The biological and clinical relevance of glycosylation is becoming increasingly recognized, leading to a growing interest in large-scale clinical and population-based studies. In the past few years, several methods for high-throughput analysis of glycans have been developed, but thorough validation and standardization of these methods is required before significant resources are invested in large-scale studies. In this study, we compared liquid chromatography, capillary gel electrophoresis, and two MS methods for quantitative profiling of N-glycosylation of IgG in the same data set of 1201 individuals. To evaluate the accuracy of the four methods we then performed analysis of association with genetic polymorphisms and age. Chromatographic methods with either fluorescent or MS-detection yielded slightly stronger associations than MS-only and multiplexed capillary gel electrophoresis, but at the expense of lower levels of throughput. Advantages and disadvantages of each method were identified, which should inform the selection of the most appropriate method in future studies.
PMCID: PMC4047478  PMID: 24719452
5.  Mutations in HNF1A Result in Marked Alterations of Plasma Glycan Profile 
Diabetes  2013;62(4):1329-1337.
A recent genome-wide association study identified hepatocyte nuclear factor 1-α (HNF1A) as a key regulator of fucosylation. We hypothesized that loss-of-function HNF1A mutations causal for maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) would display altered fucosylation of N-linked glycans on plasma proteins and that glycan biomarkers could improve the efficiency of a diagnosis of HNF1A-MODY. In a pilot comparison of 33 subjects with HNF1A-MODY and 41 subjects with type 2 diabetes, 15 of 29 glycan measurements differed between the two groups. The DG9-glycan index, which is the ratio of fucosylated to nonfucosylated triantennary glycans, provided optimum discrimination in the pilot study and was examined further among additional subjects with HNF1A-MODY (n = 188), glucokinase (GCK)-MODY (n = 118), hepatocyte nuclear factor 4-α (HNF4A)-MODY (n = 40), type 1 diabetes (n = 98), type 2 diabetes (n = 167), and nondiabetic controls (n = 98). The DG9-glycan index was markedly lower in HNF1A-MODY than in controls or other diabetes subtypes, offered good discrimination between HNF1A-MODY and both type 1 and type 2 diabetes (C statistic ≥0.90), and enabled us to detect three previously undetected HNF1A mutations in patients with diabetes. In conclusion, glycan profiles are altered substantially in HNF1A-MODY, and the DG9-glycan index has potential clinical value as a diagnostic biomarker of HNF1A dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3609552  PMID: 23274891
6.  Genome-wide association analyses identify multiple loci associated with central corneal thickness and keratoconus 
Lu, Yi | Vitart, Veronique | Burdon, Kathryn P | Khor, Chiea Chuen | Bykhovskaya, Yelena | Mirshahi, Alireza | Hewitt, Alex W | Koehn, Demelza | Hysi, Pirro G | Ramdas, Wishal D | Zeller, Tanja | Vithana, Eranga N | Cornes, Belinda K | Tay, Wan-Ting | Tai, E Shyong | Cheng, Ching-Yu | Liu, Jianjun | Foo, Jia-Nee | Saw, Seang Mei | Thorleifsson, Gudmar | Stefansson, Kari | Dimasi, David P | Mills, Richard A | Mountain, Jenny | Ang, Wei | Hoehn, René | Verhoeven, Virginie J M | Grus, Franz | Wolfs, Roger | Castagne, Raphaële | Lackner, Karl J | Springelkamp, Henriët | Yang, Jian | Jonasson, Fridbert | Leung, Dexter Y L | Chen, Li J | Tham, Clement C Y | Rudan, Igor | Vatavuk, Zoran | Hayward, Caroline | Gibson, Jane | Cree, Angela J | MacLeod, Alex | Ennis, Sarah | Polasek, Ozren | Campbell, Harry | Wilson, James F | Viswanathan, Ananth C | Fleck, Brian | Li, Xiaohui | Siscovick, David | Taylor, Kent D | Rotter, Jerome I | Yazar, Seyhan | Ulmer, Megan | Li, Jun | Yaspan, Brian L | Ozel, Ayse B | Richards, Julia E | Moroi, Sayoko E | Haines, Jonathan L | Kang, Jae H | Pasquale, Louis R | Allingham, R Rand | Ashley-Koch, Allison | Mitchell, Paul | Wang, Jie Jin | Wright, Alan F | Pennell, Craig | Spector, Timothy D | Young, Terri L | Klaver, Caroline C W | Martin, Nicholas G | Montgomery, Grant W | Anderson, Michael G | Aung, Tin | Willoughby, Colin E | Wiggs, Janey L | Pang, Chi P | Thorsteinsdottir, Unnur | Lotery, Andrew J | Hammond, Christopher J | van Duijn, Cornelia M | Hauser, Michael A | Rabinowitz, Yaron S | Pfeiffer, Norbert | Mackey, David A | Craig, Jamie E | Macgregor, Stuart | Wong, Tien Y
Nature genetics  2013;45(2):155-163.
Central corneal thickness (CCT) is associated with eye conditions including keratoconus and glaucoma. We performed a meta-analysis on >20,000 individuals in European and Asian populations that identified 16 new loci associated with CCT at genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8). We further showed that 2 CCT-associated loci, FOXO1 and FNDC3B, conferred relatively large risks for keratoconus in 2 cohorts with 874 cases and 6,085 controls (rs2721051 near FOXO1 had odds ratio (OR) = 1.62, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.4–1.88, P = 2.7 × 10−10, and rs4894535 in FNDC3B had OR = 1.47, 95% CI = 1.29–1.68, P = 4.9 × 10−9). FNDC3B was also associated with primary open-angle glaucoma (P = 5.6 × 10−4; tested in 3 cohorts with 2,979 cases and 7,399 controls). Further analyses implicate the collagen and extracellular matrix pathways in the regulation of CCT.
PMCID: PMC3720123  PMID: 23291589
7.  Glycans Are a Novel Biomarker of Chronological and Biological Ages 
Fine structural details of glycans attached to the conserved N-glycosylation site significantly not only affect function of individual immunoglobulin G (IgG) molecules but also mediate inflammation at the systemic level. By analyzing IgG glycosylation in 5,117 individuals from four European populations, we have revealed very complex patterns of changes in IgG glycosylation with age. Several IgG glycans (including FA2B, FA2G2, and FA2BG2) changed considerably with age and the combination of these three glycans can explain up to 58% of variance in chronological age, significantly more than other markers of biological age like telomere lengths. The remaining variance in these glycans strongly correlated with physiological parameters associated with biological age. Thus, IgG glycosylation appears to be closely linked with both chronological and biological ages. Considering the important role of IgG glycans in inflammation, and because the observed changes with age promote inflammation, changes in IgG glycosylation also seem to represent a factor contributing to aging.
Significance Statement
Glycosylation is the key posttranslational mechanism that regulates function of immunoglobulins, with multiple systemic repercussions to the immune system. Our study of IgG glycosylation in 5,117 individuals from four European populations has revealed very extensive and complex changes in IgG glycosylation with age. The combined index composed of only three glycans explained up to 58% of variance in age, considerably more than other biomarkers of age like telomere lengths. The remaining variance in these glycans strongly correlated with physiological parameters associated with biological age; thus, IgG glycosylation appears to be closely linked with both chronological and biological ages. The ability to measure human biological aging using molecular profiling has practical applications for diverse fields such as disease prevention and treatment, or forensics.
PMCID: PMC4049143  PMID: 24325898
Aging; Glycome; Glycosylation; Immunoglobulin G; Inflammation.
8.  Text Messaging Data Collection for Monitoring an Infant Feeding Intervention Program in Rural China: Feasibility Study 
An effective data collection method is crucial for high quality monitoring of health interventions. The traditional face-to-face data collection method is labor intensive, expensive, and time consuming. With the rapid increase of mobile phone subscribers, text messaging has the potential to be used for evaluation of population health interventions in rural China.
The objective of this study was to explore the feasibility of using text messaging as a data collection tool to monitor an infant feeding intervention program.
Participants were caregivers of children aged 0 to 23 months in rural China who participated in an infant feeding health education program. We used the test-retest method. First, we collected data with a text messaging survey and then with a face-to-face survey for 2 periods of 3 days. We compared the response rate, data agreement, costs, and participants’ acceptability of the two methods. Also, we interviewed participants to explore their reasons for not responding to the text messages and the reasons for disagreement in the two methods. In addition, we evaluated the most appropriate time during the day for sending text messages.
We included 258 participants; 99 (38.4%) participated in the text messaging survey and 177 (68.6%) in the face-to-face survey. Compared with the face-to-face survey, the text messaging survey had much lower response rates to at least one question (38.4% vs 68.6%) and to all 7 questions (27.9% vs 67.4%) with moderate data agreement (most kappa values between .5 and .75, the intraclass correlation coefficients between .53 to .72). Participants who took part in both surveys gave the same acceptability rating for both methods (median 4.0 for both on a 5-point scale, 1=disliked very much and 5=liked very much). The costs per questionnaire for the text messaging method were much lower than the costs for the face-to-face method: ¥19.7 (US $3.13) versus ¥33.9 (US $5.39) for all questionnaires, and ¥27.1 (US $4.31) versus ¥34.4 (US $5.47) for completed questionnaires. The main reasons for not replying were that participants did not receive text messages, they were too busy to reply, or they did not see text messages in time. The main reasons for disagreement in responses were that participants forgot their answers in the text messaging survey and that they changed their minds. We found that participants were more likely to reply to text messages immediately during 2 time periods: 8 AM to 3 PM and 8 PM to 9 PM.
The text messaging method had reasonable data agreement and low cost, but a low response rate. Further research is needed to evaluate effectiveness of measures that can increase the response rate, especially in collecting longitudinal data by text messaging.
PMCID: PMC3869081  PMID: 24305514
text messaging; data collection; program evaluation; child nutrition sciences
9.  mHealth Series: mHealth project in Zhao County, rural China – Description of objectives, field site and methods 
Journal of Global Health  2013;3(2):020401.
We set up a collaboration between researchers in China and the UK that aimed to explore the use of mHealth in China. This is the first paper in a series of papers on a large mHealth project part of this collaboration. This paper included the aims and objectives of the mHealth project, our field site, and the detailed methods of two studies.
Field site
The field site for this mHealth project was Zhao County, which lies 280 km south of Beijing in Hebei Province, China.
We described the methodology of two studies: (i) a mixed methods study exploring factors influencing sample size calculations for mHealth–based health surveys and (ii) a cross–over study determining validity of an mHealth text messaging data collection tool. The first study used mixed methods, both quantitative and qualitative, including: (i) two surveys with caregivers of young children, (ii) interviews with caregivers, village doctors and participants of the cross–over study, and (iii) researchers’ views. We combined data from caregivers, village doctors and researchers to provide an in–depth understanding of factors influencing sample size calculations for mHealth–based health surveys. The second study, a cross–over study, used a randomised cross–over study design to compare the traditional face–to–face survey method to the new text messaging survey method. We assessed data equivalence (intrarater agreement), the amount of information in responses, reasons for giving different responses, the response rate, characteristics of non–responders, and the error rate.
This paper described the objectives, field site and methods of a large mHealth project part of a collaboration between researchers in China and the UK. The mixed methods study evaluating factors that influence sample size calculations could help future studies with estimating reliable sample sizes. The cross–over study comparing face–to–face and text message survey data collection could help future studies with developing their mHealth tools.
PMCID: PMC3868818  PMID: 24363919
10.  Estimating global and regional morbidity from acute bacterial meningitis in children: assessment of the evidence 
Croatian Medical Journal  2013;54(6):510-518.
To estimate global morbidity from acute bacterial meningitis in children.
We conducted a systematic review of the PubMed and Scopus databases to identify both community-based and hospital registry-based studies that could be useful in estimation of the global morbidity from bacterial meningitis in children. We were primarily interested in the availability and quality of the information on incidence rates and case-fatality rates. We assessed the impact of the year of study, study design, study setting, the duration of study, and sample size on reported incidence values, and also any association between incidence and case-fatality rate. We also categorized the studies by 6 World Health Organization regions and analyzed the plausibility of estimates derived from the current evidence using median and inter-quartile range of the available reports in each region.
We found 71 studies that met the inclusion criteria. The only two significant associations between the reported incidence and studied covariates were the negative correlation between the incidence and sample size (P < 0.001) and positive correlation between incidence and case-fatality rate (P < 0.001). The median incidence per 100 000 child-years was highest in the African region – 143.6 (interquartile range [IQR] 115.6-174.6), followed by Western Pacific region with 42.9 (12.4-83.4), the Eastern Mediterranean region with 34.3 (9.9-42.0), South East Asia with 26.8 (21.0-60.3), Europe with 20.8 (16.2-29.7), and American region with 16.6 (10.3-33.7). The median case-fatality rate was also highest in the African region (31.3%). Globally, the median incidence for all 71 studies was 34.0 (16.0-88.0) per 100 000 child-years, with a median case-fatality rate of 14.4% (5.3%-26.2%).
Our study showed that there was now sufficient evidence to generate improved and internally consistent estimates of the global burden of acute bacterial meningitis in children. Although some of our region-specific estimates are very uncertain due to scarcity of data from the corresponding regions, the estimates of morbidity and case-fatality from childhood bacterial meningitis derived from this study are consistent with mortality estimates derived from multi-cause mortality studies. Both lines of evidence imply that bacterial meningitis is a cause of 2% of all child deaths.
PMCID: PMC3893986  PMID: 24382845
11.  An estimate of asthma prevalence in Africa: a systematic analysis 
Croatian Medical Journal  2013;54(6):519-531.
To estimate and compare asthma prevalence in Africa in 1990, 2000, and 2010 in order to provide information that will help inform the planning of the public health response to the disease.
We conducted a systematic search of Medline, EMBASE, and Global Health for studies on asthma published between 1990 and 2012. We included cross-sectional population based studies providing numerical estimates on the prevalence of asthma. We calculated weighted mean prevalence and applied an epidemiological model linking age with the prevalence of asthma. The UN population figures for Africa for 1990, 2000, and 2010 were used to estimate the cases of asthma, each for the respective year.
Our search returned 790 studies. We retained 45 studies that met our selection criteria. In Africa in 1990, we estimated 34.1 million asthma cases (12.1%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 7.2-16.9) among children <15 years, 64.9 million (11.8%; 95% CI 7.9-15.8) among people aged <45 years, and 74.4 million (11.7%; 95% CI 8.2-15.3) in the total population. In 2000, we estimated 41.3 million cases (12.9%; 95% CI 8.7-17.0) among children <15 years, 82.4 million (12.5%; 95% CI 5.9-19.1) among people aged <45 years, and 94.8 million (12.0%; 95% CI 5.0-18.8) in the total population. This increased to 49.7 million (13.9%; 95% CI 9.6-18.3) among children <15 years, 102.9 million (13.8%; 95% CI 6.2-21.4) among people aged <45 years, and 119.3 million (12.8%; 95% CI 8.2-17.1) in the total population in 2010. There were no significant differences between asthma prevalence in studies which ascertained cases by written and video questionnaires. Crude prevalences of asthma were, however, consistently higher among urban than rural dwellers.
Our findings suggest an increasing prevalence of asthma in Africa over the past two decades. Due to the paucity of data, we believe that the true prevalence of asthma may still be under-estimated. There is a need for national governments in Africa to consider the implications of this increasing disease burden and to investigate the relative importance of underlying risk factors such as rising urbanization and population aging in their policy and health planning responses to this challenge.
PMCID: PMC3893990  PMID: 24382846
12.  The power of regional heritability analysis for rare and common variant detection: simulations and application to eye biometrical traits 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:232.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have provided valuable insights into the genetic basis of complex traits. However, they have explained relatively little trait heritability. Recently, we proposed a new analytical approach called regional heritability mapping (RHM) that captures more of the missing genetic variation. This method is applicable both to related and unrelated populations. Here, we demonstrate the power of RHM in comparison with single-SNP GWAS and gene-based association approaches under a wide range of scenarios with variable numbers of quantitative trait loci (QTL) with common and rare causal variants in a narrow genomic region. Simulations based on real genotype data were performed to assess power to capture QTL variance, and we demonstrate that RHM has greater power to detect rare variants and/or multiple alleles in a region than other approaches. In addition, we show that RHM can capture more accurately the QTL variance, when it is caused by multiple independent effects and/or rare variants. We applied RHM to analyze three biometrical eye traits for which single-SNP GWAS have been published or performed to evaluate the effectiveness of this method in real data analysis and detected some additional loci which were not detected by other GWAS methods. RHM has the potential to explain some of missing heritability by capturing variance caused by QTL with low MAF and multiple independent QTL in a region, not captured by other GWAS methods. RHM analyses can be implemented using the software REACTA (
PMCID: PMC3832942  PMID: 24312116
common and rare variants; GWAS; regional heritability mapping; multiple independent effects; missing heritability
13.  An evaluation of the emerging vaccines against influenza in children 
BMC Public Health  2013;13(Suppl 3):S14.
Influenza is an under-appreciated cause of acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) in children. It is estimated to cause approximately 20 million new episodes of ALRI in children annually, 97% of these occurring in developing countries. It is also estimated to result in 28000 to 112000 deaths annually in young children. Apart from hospitalisations and deaths, influenza has significant economic consequences. The current egg-based inactivated influenza vaccines have several limitations: annual vaccination, high production costs, and cannot respond adequately to meet the demand during pandemics.
We used a modified CHNRI methodology for setting priorities in health research investments. This was done in two stages. In Stage I, we systematically reviewed the literature related to emerging cross-protective vaccines against influenza relevant to several criteria of interest: answerability; cost of development, production and implementation; efficacy and effectiveness; deliverability, affordability and sustainability; maximum potential impact on disease burden reduction; acceptability to the end users and health workers; and effect on equity. In Stage II, we conducted an expert opinion exercise by inviting 20 experts (leading basic scientists, international public health researchers, international policy makers and representatives of pharmaceutical companies). They answered questions from the CHNRI framework and their “collective optimism” towards each criterion was documented on a scale from 0 to 100%.
The experts expressed very high level of optimism for deliverability, impact on equity, and acceptability to health workers and end users. However, they expressed concerns over the criteria of answerability, low development cost, low product cost, low implementation cost, affordability and, to a lesser extent sustainability. In addition they felt that the vaccine would have higher efficacy and impact on disease burden reduction on overall influenza-associated disease rather than specifically influenza-associated pneumonia.
Although the landscape of emerging influenza vaccines shows several promising candidates, it is unlikely that the advancements in the newer vaccine technologies will be able to progress through to large scale production in the near future. The combined effects of continued investments in researching new vaccines and improvements of available vaccines will hopefully shorten the time needed to the development of an effective seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccine suitable for large scale production.
PMCID: PMC3847180  PMID: 24564565
14.  SMAD7 Variant rs4939827 Is Associated with Colorectal Cancer Risk in Croatian Population 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74042.
Twenty common genetic variants have been associated with risk of developing colorectal cancer (CRC) in genome wide association studies to date. Since large differences between populations exist, generalisability of findings to any specific population needs to be confirmed.
The aim of this study was to perform an association study between risk variants: rs10795668, rs16892766, rs3802842 and rs4939827 and CRC risk in Croatian population.
An association study was performed on 320 colorectal cancer cases and 594 controls recruited in Croatia. We genotyped four variants previously associated with CRC: rs10795668, rs16892766, rs3802842 and rs4939827.
SMAD7 variant rs4939827 (18q21.1) was significantly associated with CRC risk in Croatian population. C allele was associated with a decreased risk, odds ratio (OR): 0.70 (95% CI: 0.57-0.85, P=3.5E-04). Compared to TT homozygotes, risk was reduced by 34% in heterozygotes (OR=0.66, 95% CI: 0.47-0.92) and by 52% in CC homozygotes (OR=0.48, 95% CI: 0.33-0.72).
Our results show association of rs4939827 with colorectal cancer risk in Croatian population. The higher strength of the association in comparison to other studies suggests population-specific environmental or genetic factors may be modifying the association. More studies are needed to further describe role of rs4939827 in CRC. Likely reason for failure of replication for other 3 loci is inadequate study power.
PMCID: PMC3774761  PMID: 24066093
15.  Setting Research Priorities for Preconception Care in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Aiming to Reduce Maternal and Child Mortality and Morbidity 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(9):e1001508.
Sohni Dean and colleagues report their CHNRI exercise that developed health research priorities for effective pre-conception care in low- and middle-income countries.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
PMCID: PMC3760783  PMID: 24019762
16.  Causal and Synthetic Associations of Variants in the SERPINA Gene Cluster with Alpha1-antitrypsin Serum Levels 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003585.
Several infrequent genetic polymorphisms in the SERPINA1 gene are known to substantially reduce concentration of alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) in the blood. Since low AAT serum levels fail to protect pulmonary tissue from enzymatic degradation, these polymorphisms also increase the risk for early onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The role of more common SERPINA1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in respiratory health remains poorly understood.
We present here an agnostic investigation of genetic determinants of circulating AAT levels in a general population sample by performing a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 1392 individuals of the SAPALDIA cohort.
Five common SNPs, defined by showing minor allele frequencies (MAFs) >5%, reached genome-wide significance, all located in the SERPINA gene cluster at 14q32.13. The top-ranking genotyped SNP rs4905179 was associated with an estimated effect of β = −0.068 g/L per minor allele (P = 1.20*10−12). But denser SERPINA1 locus genotyping in 5569 participants with subsequent stepwise conditional analysis, as well as exon-sequencing in a subsample (N = 410), suggested that AAT serum level is causally determined at this locus by rare (MAF<1%) and low-frequent (MAF 1–5%) variants only, in particular by the well-documented protein inhibitor S and Z (PI S, PI Z) variants. Replication of the association of rs4905179 with AAT serum levels in the Copenhagen City Heart Study (N = 8273) was successful (P<0.0001), as was the replication of its synthetic nature (the effect disappeared after adjusting for PI S and Z, P = 0.57). Extending the analysis to lung function revealed a more complex situation. Only in individuals with severely compromised pulmonary health (N = 397), associations of common SNPs at this locus with lung function were driven by rarer PI S or Z variants. Overall, our meta-analysis of lung function in ever-smokers does not support a functional role of common SNPs in the SERPINA gene cluster in the general population.
Author Summary
Low levels of alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) in the blood are a well-established risk factor for accelerated loss in lung function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. While a few infrequent genetic polymorphisms are known to influence the serum levels of this enzyme, the role of common genetic variants has not been examined so far. The present genome-wide scan for associated variants in approximately 1400 Swiss inhabitants revealed a chromosomal locus containing the functionally established variants of AAT deficiency and variants previously associated with lung function and emphysema. We used dense genotyping of this genetic region in more than 5500 individuals and subsequent conditional analyses to unravel which of these associated variants contribute independently to the phenotype's variability. All associations of common variants could be attributed to the rarer functionally established variants, a result which was then replicated in an independent population-based Danish cohort. Hence, this locus represents a textbook example of how a large part of a trait's heritability can be hidden in infrequent genetic polymorphisms. The attempt to transfer these results to lung function furthermore suggests that effects of common variants in this genetic region in ever-smokers may also be explained by rarer variants, but only in individuals with hampered pulmonary health.
PMCID: PMC3749935  PMID: 23990791
17.  Genetic influences on plasma CFH and CFHR1 concentrations and their role in susceptibility to age-related macular degeneration 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(23):4857-4869.
It is a longstanding puzzle why non-coding variants in the complement factor H (CFH) gene are more strongly associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than functional coding variants that directly influence the alternative complement pathway. The situation is complicated by tight genetic associations across the region, including the adjacent CFH-related genes CFHR3 and CFHR1, which may themselves influence the alternative complement pathway and are contained within a common deletion (CNP147) which is associated with protection against AMD. It is unclear whether this association is mediated through a protective effect of low plasma CFHR1 concentrations, high plasma CFH or both. We examined the triangular relationships of CFH/CFHR3/CFHR1 genotype, plasma CFH or CFHR1 concentrations and AMD susceptibility in combined case–control (1256 cases, 1020 controls) and cross-sectional population (n = 1004) studies and carried out genome-wide association studies of plasma CFH and CFHR1 concentrations. A non-coding CFH SNP (rs6677604) and the CNP147 deletion were strongly correlated both with each other and with plasma CFH and CFHR1 concentrations. The plasma CFH-raising rs6677604 allele and raised plasma CFH concentration were each associated with AMD protection. In contrast, the protective association of the CNP147 deletion with AMD was not mediated by low plasma CFHR1, since AMD-free controls showed increased plasma CFHR1 compared with cases, but it may be mediated by the association of CNP147 with raised plasma CFH concentration. The results are most consistent with a regulatory locus within a 32 kb region of the CFH gene, with a major effect on plasma CFH concentration and AMD susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3820139  PMID: 23873044
18.  Local Exome Sequences Facilitate Imputation of Less Common Variants and Increase Power of Genome Wide Association Studies 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68604.
The analysis of less common variants in genome-wide association studies promises to elucidate complex trait genetics but is hampered by low power to reliably detect association. We show that addition of population-specific exome sequence data to global reference data allows more accurate imputation, particularly of less common SNPs (minor allele frequency 1–10%) in two very different European populations. The imputation improvement corresponds to an increase in effective sample size of 28–38%, for SNPs with a minor allele frequency in the range 1–3%.
PMCID: PMC3712964  PMID: 23874685
19.  Reducing mortality from childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea: The leading priority is also the greatest opportunity 
Journal of Global Health  2013;3(1):010101.
Pneumonia and diarrhoea have been the leading causes of global child mortality for many decades. The work of Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) has been pivotal in raising awareness that the UN's Millennium Development Goal 4 cannot be achieved without increased focus on preventing and treating the two diseases in low– and middle–income countries. Global Action Plan for Pneumonia (GAPP) and Diarrhoea Global Action Plan (DGAP) groups recently concluded that addressing childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea is not only the leading priority but also the greatest opportunity in global health today: scaling up of existing highly cost–effective interventions could prevent 95% of diarrhoea deaths and 67% of pneumonia deaths in children younger than 5 years by the year 2025. The cost of such effort was estimated at about US$ 6.7 billion.
PMCID: PMC3700027  PMID: 23826497
20.  Epidemiology and etiology of childhood pneumonia in 2010: estimates of incidence, severe morbidity, mortality, underlying risk factors and causative pathogens for 192 countries 
Journal of Global Health  2013;3(1):010401.
The recent series of reviews conducted within the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) addressed epidemiology of the two deadly diseases at the global and regional level; it also estimated the effectiveness of interventions, barriers to achieving high coverage and the main implications for health policy. The aim of this paper is to provide the estimates of childhood pneumonia at the country level. This should allow national policy–makers and stakeholders to implement proposed policies in the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF member countries.
We conducted a series of systematic reviews to update previous estimates of the global, regional and national burden of childhood pneumonia incidence, severe morbidity, mortality, risk factors and specific contributions of the most common pathogens: Streptococcus pneumoniae (SP), Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza virus (flu). We distributed the global and regional–level estimates of the number of cases, severe cases and deaths from childhood pneumonia in 2010–2011 by specific countries using an epidemiological model. The model was based on the prevalence of the five main risk factors for childhood pneumonia within countries (malnutrition, low birth weight, non–exclusive breastfeeding in the first four months, solid fuel use and crowding) and risk effect sizes estimated using meta–analysis.
The incidence of community–acquired childhood pneumonia in low– and middle–income countries (LMIC) in the year 2010, using World Health Organization's definition, was about 0.22 (interquartile range (IQR) 0.11–0.51) episodes per child–year (e/cy), with 11.5% (IQR 8.0–33.0%) of cases progressing to severe episodes. This is a reduction of nearly 25% over the past decade, which is consistent with observed reductions in the prevalence of risk factors for pneumonia throughout LMIC. At the level of pneumonia incidence, RSV is the most common pathogen, present in about 29% of all episodes, followed by influenza (17%). The contribution of different pathogens varies by pneumonia severity strata, with viral etiologies becoming relatively less important and most deaths in 2010 caused by the main bacterial agents – SP (33%) and Hib (16%), accounting for vaccine use against these two pathogens.
In comparison to 2000, the primary epidemiological evidence contributing to the models of childhood pneumonia burden has improved only slightly; all estimates have wide uncertainty bounds. Still, there is evidence of a decreasing trend for all measures of the burden over the period 2000–2010. The estimates of pneumonia incidence, severe morbidity, mortality and etiology, although each derived from different and independent data, are internally consistent – lending credibility to the new set of estimates. Pneumonia continues to be the leading cause of both morbidity and mortality for young children beyond the neonatal period and requires ongoing strategies and progress to reduce the burden further.
PMCID: PMC3700032  PMID: 23826505
22.  Measuring Coverage in MNCH: A Prospective Validation Study in Pakistan and Bangladesh on Measuring Correct Treatment of Childhood Pneumonia 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001422.
Antibiotic treatment for pneumonia as measured by Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) is a key indicator for tracking progress in achieving Millennium Development Goal 4. Concerns about the validity of this indicator led us to perform an evaluation in urban and rural settings in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Methods and Findings
Caregivers of 950 children under 5 y with pneumonia and 980 with “no pneumonia” were identified in urban and rural settings and allocated for DHS/MICS questions 2 or 4 wk later. Study physicians assigned a diagnosis of pneumonia as reference standard; the predictive ability of DHS/MICS questions and additional measurement tools to identify pneumonia versus non-pneumonia cases was evaluated.
Results at both sites showed suboptimal discriminative power, with no difference between 2- or 4-wk recall. Individual patterns of sensitivity and specificity varied substantially across study sites (sensitivity 66.9% and 45.5%, and specificity 68.8% and 69.5%, for DHS in Pakistan and Bangladesh, respectively). Prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia were correctly recalled by about two-thirds of caregivers using DHS questions, increasing to 72% and 82% in Pakistan and Bangladesh, respectively, using a drug chart and detailed enquiry.
Monitoring antibiotic treatment of pneumonia is essential for national and global programs. Current (DHS/MICS questions) and proposed new (video and pneumonia score) methods of identifying pneumonia based on maternal recall discriminate poorly between pneumonia and children with cough. Furthermore, these methods have a low yield to identify children who have true pneumonia. Reported antibiotic treatment rates among these children are therefore not a valid proxy indicator of pneumonia treatment rates. These results have important implications for program monitoring and suggest that data in its current format from DHS/MICS surveys should not be used for the purpose of monitoring antibiotic treatment rates in children with pneumonia at the present time.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Pneumonia is a major cause of death in children younger than five years across the globe, with approximately 1.2 million children younger than five years dying from pneumonia every year. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses. It is possible to effectively treat bacterial pneumonia with appropriate antibiotics; however, only about 30% of children receive the antibiotic treatment they need. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were established in 2000. The fourth goal (MDG 4) aims to reduce child mortality, specifically, to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015. Given that approximately 18% of all deaths in children under five are caused by pneumonia, providing universal coverage with effective treatments for pneumonia is an important part of MDG 4.
To ensure that MDG 4 targets are met, it is important to measure progress in providing effective treatments. For pneumonia, one of the key indicators for measuring progress is the proportion of children with pneumonia in a population who receive antibiotic treatment, also known as the antibiotic treatment rate. The antibiotic treatment rate is often measured using surveys, such as the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), which collect nationally representative data about populations and health in developing countries.
Why Was This Study Done?
Concerns have been raised about whether information collected from DHS and MICS is able to accurately identify cases of pneumonia. In a clinical setting, pneumonia is typically diagnosed based on a combination of physical symptoms, including coughing, rapid breathing, or difficulty breathing, and a chest X-ray. The surveys rely on information collected from interviews of mothers and primary caregivers using structured questions about whether the child has experienced physical symptoms in the past two weeks and whether these were chest-related. The DHS survey labels this condition as “symptoms of acute respiratory infection,” while the MICS survey uses the term “suspected pneumonia.” Thus, these surveys provide a proxy measure for pneumonia that is limited by the reliance on the recall of symptoms by the mother or caregiver. Here the researchers have evaluated the use of these surveys to discriminate physician-diagnosed pneumonia and to provide accurate recall of antibiotic treatment in urban and rural settings in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified caregivers of 950 children under five years with pneumonia and 980 who had a cough or cold but did not have pneumonia from urban and rural settings in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Cases of pneumonia were identified based on a physician diagnosis using World Health Organization guidelines. They randomly assigned caregivers to be interviewed using DHS and MICS questions with either a two- or four-week recall period. They then assessed how well the DHS and MICS questions were able to accurately diagnose pneumonia and accurately recall antibiotic use. In addition, they asked caregivers to complete a pneumonia score questionnaire and showed them a video tool showing children with and without pneumonia, as well as a medication drug chart, to determine if these alternative measures improved the accuracy of pneumonia diagnosis or recall of antibiotic use. They found that both surveys, the pneumonia score, and the video tool had poor ability to discriminate between children with and without physician-diagnosed pneumonia, and there were no differences between using two- or four-week recall. The sensitivity (proportion of pneumonia cases that were correctly identified) ranged from 23% to 72%, and the specificity (the proportion of “no pneumonia” cases that were correctly identified) ranged from 53% to 83%, depending on the setting. They also observed that prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia were correctly recalled by about two-thirds of caregivers using DHS questions, and this increased to about three-quarters of caregivers when using a drug chart and detailed enquiry.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study suggest that the current use of questions from DHS and MICS based on mother or caregiver recall are not sufficient for accurately identifying pneumonia and antibiotic use in children. Because these surveys have poor ability to identify children who have true pneumonia, reported antibiotic treatment rates for children with pneumonia based on data from these surveys may not be accurate, and these surveys should not be used to monitor treatment rates. These findings should be interpreted cautiously, given the relatively high rate of loss to follow-up and delayed follow-up in some of the children and because some of the settings in this study may not be similar to other low-income settings.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
More information is available on the United Nations goal to reduce child mortality (MDG 4)
The World Health Organization provides information on pneumonia, its impact on children, and the global action plan for prevention and control of pneumonia
More information is available on Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys
KidsHealth, a resource maintained by the Nemours Foundation (a not-for-profit organization for children's health) provides information for parents on pneumonia (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on pneumonia (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3646205  PMID: 23667339
23.  Measuring Coverage in MNCH: Challenges in Monitoring the Proportion of Young Children with Pneumonia Who Receive Antibiotic Treatment 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001421.
Pneumonia remains a major cause of child death globally, and improving antibiotic treatment rates is a key control strategy. Progress in improving the global coverage of antibiotic treatment is monitored through large household surveys such as the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), which estimate antibiotic treatment rates of pneumonia based on two-week recall of pneumonia by caregivers. However, these survey tools identify children with reported symptoms of pneumonia, and because the prevalence of pneumonia over a two-week period in community settings is low, the majority of these children do not have true pneumonia and so do not provide an accurate denominator of pneumonia cases for monitoring antibiotic treatment rates. In this review, we show that the performance of survey tools could be improved by increasing the survey recall period or by improving either overall discriminative power or specificity. However, even at a test specificity of 95% (and a test sensitivity of 80%), the proportion of children with reported symptoms of pneumonia who truly have pneumonia is only 22% (the positive predictive value of the survey tool). Thus, although DHS and MICS survey data on rates of care seeking for children with reported symptoms of pneumonia and other childhood illnesses remain valid and important, DHS and MICS data are not able to give valid estimates of antibiotic treatment rates in children with pneumonia.
PMCID: PMC3646212  PMID: 23667338
24.  Global and regional burden of hospital admissions for severe acute lower respiratory infections in young children in 2010: a systematic analysis 
Lancet  2013;381(9875):1380-1390.
The annual number of hospital admissions and in-hospital deaths due to severe acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) in young children worldwide is unknown. We aimed to estimate the incidence of admissions and deaths for such infections in children younger than 5 years in 2010.
We estimated the incidence of admissions for severe and very severe ALRI in children younger than 5 years, stratified by age and region, with data from a systematic review of studies published between Jan 1, 1990, and March 31, 2012, and from 28 unpublished population-based studies. We applied these incidence estimates to population estimates for 2010, to calculate the global and regional burden in children admitted with severe ALRI in that year. We estimated in-hospital mortality due to severe and very severe ALRI by combining incidence estimates with case fatality ratios from hospital-based studies.
We identified 89 eligible studies and estimated that in 2010, 11·9 million (95% CI 10·3–13·9 million) episodes of severe and 3·0 million (2·1–4·2 million) episodes of very severe ALRI resulted in hospital admissions in young children worldwide. Incidence was higher in boys than in girls, the sex disparity being greatest in South Asian studies. On the basis of data from 37 hospital studies reporting case fatality ratios for severe ALRI, we estimated that roughly 265 000 (95% CI 160 000–450 000) in-hospital deaths took place in young children, with 99% of these deaths in developing countries. Therefore, the data suggest that although 62% of children with severe ALRI are treated in hospitals, 81% of deaths happen outside hospitals.
Severe ALRI is a substantial burden on health services worldwide and a major cause of hospital referral and admission in young children. Improved hospital access and reduced inequities, such as those related to sex and rural status, could substantially decrease mortality related to such infection. Community-based management of severe disease could be an important complementary strategy to reduce pneumonia mortality and health inequities.
PMCID: PMC3986472  PMID: 23369797
25.  Risk factors for severe acute lower respiratory infections in children – a systematic review and meta-analysis 
Croatian Medical Journal  2013;54(2):110-121.
To identify the risk factors in children under five years of age for severe acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI), which are the leading cause of child mortality.
We performed a systematic review of published literature available in the public domain. We conducted a quality assessment of all eligible studies according to GRADE criteria and performed a meta-analysis to report the odds ratios for all risk factors identified in these studies.
We identified 36 studies that investigated 19 risk factors for severe ALRI. Of these, 7 risk factors were significantly associated with severe ALRI in a consistent manner across studies, with the following meta-analysis estimates of odds ratios (with 95% confidence intervals): low birth weight 3.18 (1.02-9.90), lack of exclusive breastfeeding 2.34 (1.42-3.88), crowding – more than 7 persons per household 1.96 (1.53-2.52), exposure to indoor air pollution 1.57 (1.06-2.31), incomplete immunization 1.83 (1.32-2.52), undernutrition – weight-for-age less than 2 standard deviations 4.47 (2.10-9.49), and HIV infection 4.15 (2.57-9.74).
This study highlights the role of the above seven risk factors in the development of severe pneumonia in under-five children. In addition, it emphasizes the need for further studies investigating other potential risk factors. Since these risk factors are potentially preventable, health policies targeted at reducing their prevalence provide a basis for decreasing the burden of childhood pneumonia.
PMCID: PMC3641871  PMID: 23630139

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