Genetics of inherited cardiomyopathies in Africa

Gasnat Shaboodien, Timothy F. Spracklen, Stephen Kamuli, Polycarp Ndibangwi, Carla Van Niekerk, Ntobeko A. B. Ntusi


In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) is rising disproportionately in comparison to the rest of the world, affecting urban, semi-urban and rural dwellers alike. NCDs are predicted to surpass infections like human immunodeficiency virus, tuberculosis and malaria as the leading cause of mortality in SSA over the next decade. Heart failure (HF) is the dominant form of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and a leading cause of NCD in SSA. The main causes of HF in SSA are hypertension, cardiomyopathies, rheumatic heart disease, pericardial disease, and to a lesser extent, coronary heart disease. Of these, the cardiomyopathies deserve greater attention because of the relatively poor understanding of mechanisms of disease, poor outcomes and the disproportionate impact they have on young, economically active individuals. Morphofunctionally, cardiomyopathies are classified as dilated, hypertrophic, restrictive and arrhythmogenic; regardless of classification, at least half of these are inherited forms of CVD. In this review, we summarise all studies that have investigated the incidence of cardiomyopathy across Africa, with a focus on the inherited cardiomyopathies. We also review data on the molecular genetic underpinnings of cardiomyopathy in Africa, where there is a striking lack of studies reporting on the genetics of cardiomyopathy. We highlight the impact that genetic testing, through candidate gene screening, association studies and next generation sequencing technologies such as whole exome sequencing and targeted resequencing has had on the understanding of cardiomyopathy in Africa. Finally, we emphasise the need for future studies to fill large gaps in our knowledge in relation to the genetics of inherited cardiomyopathies in Africa.

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