Czechs sign up for new medical service – predictive DNA testing

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DNA testing to trace your ancestry or your parentage is all the rage at the moment, but it’s mostly about looking into the past. Predictive genetic testing looks into the future – and can tell you how likely it is you will develop the same health conditions as your parents or grandparents. There are now several commercial DNA clinics offering the service in the Czech Republic, and the field is expected to grow sharply in the future.

GHC Genetics – part of the swanky GHC private clinic just off Wenceslas Square – is just one of several commercial DNA labs offering predictive genetic testing to Czech customers. It sounds like science fiction but, GHC claims a DNA sample can provide a wealth of information about your susceptibility to hereditary disease. So, for example, I know my own grandfather died in his 40s from cancer of the colon, but that’s about all I know. GHC’s Dr Lubomir Novak is an assistant professor of biochemistry and a doctor specialising in internal medicine.

“That information is very general information that comes from your family’s medical history, and all it tells you is something very vague about your genetic disposition. We, however, can establish concrete facts about your disposition – how big the risks are, are you at risk from just cancer of the colon, or from other conditions as well? And based on this information we can provide you with a tailor-made, individual course of prevention – just for you. That means not only general recommendations such as diet and exercise, but also specific measures including which medical treatments are suitable for you and which you should avoid, as well as what tests you should undergo in the future.”

The treatment costs 17,000 crowns – around 1,000 dollars – for adults and 12,000 for children. For that you receive a detailed 100-page report analysing your genetic predisposition to cancer, stroke, obesity, heart attacks as well as a host of other diseases. GHC has carried out 300 tests since it began offering the service in January.

But commercial DNA labs such as GHC have been criticised by health experts in the public sector, claiming, among other things, that the standards offered by private labs do not match those of state facilities. Dr Novak again.

At present predictive genetic testing is not covered by Czech health insurers, apart from cases where someone is unusually at risk from a hereditary disease. But that could change. GHC says it’s currently in talks with health insurance companies, as genetic research reaches ever giddier heights.