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Splice of Life

A Birthday Present

Georgia, my middle daughter of three, is a combination of my DNA and identity release[1] donor #2817[2]. Unlike her sisters who both have the advantage of knowing their sperm donors in real time (both friends of mine), Georgia’s donor can only be revealed to her next year when she turns 18. There is a …

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Risk and utility in the governance of diagnostic testing: the case of genetic screening, 1960 to the present

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Routine collection of blood samples from neonates – often using so-called Guthrie cards (pictured) – began in the 1960s when a number of North American and European countries set up screening programmes for phenylketonuria, a rare single-gene disorder which leads to developmental delays and early death if untreated. Such programmes have since been introduced in many other countries around the …

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Humanitarian diagnostics for sleeping sickness in Uganda

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Map of sleeping sickness RDT availability (red dots) in the north-western region of Uganda hosting refugees from South Sudan. In 2015, the majority of refugees in this region lived in Adjumani district, where RDTs were selectively withdrawn (blue dots) because the government’s surveillance strategy was not identifying cases. Partly this was because of the social complexity of getting the RDTs

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Gun Cultures Reflect Broader Changes in American Society

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Author’s Note: I originally wrote this article for my institution’s student-run literary magazine after the Parkland shooting. Our little community was engaged in passionate debate about “gun culture” and I had long wanted to write on the issue given my socialization and scholarship. This essay is an attempt to examine my own family’s social dynamics relative to larger societal shifts.

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Ultrasound as a diagnostic tool in Brazil: celebrating babies, blurring problems.

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This is a photograph of a publicity for a “street corner” obstetrical ultrasound in Brazil. It proclaims: “ultrasound examinations at low prices.” The advertised “low prices” can be indeed be very low: some clinics charge less than US $10 for an ultrasound examination. The aim such examination is to confirm the existence of a pregnancy, provide reassurance, but above all …

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Diagnostics without diagnosis: RDTs for Sleeping Sickness in Uganda

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Diagnosing sleeping sickness (also known as human African trypanosomiasis (HAT)) is complicated, requiring the alignment of clinical suspicion with serological, parasitological, and molecular confirmation to determine appropriate treatment. Previously, diagnosis was carried out by mobile lab teams which confirmed cases in village screenings and transported patients for treatment. Since cases have declined however, expensive active screening campaigns have been phased …