Many ethical concerns surrounding human genetics studies remain unresolved. We report here the situation in Cameroon.
Objectives: To describe the profile of human genetic studies that used Cameroonian DNA samples, with specific focus on i) the research centres that were involved, ii) authorship, iii) population studied, iv) research topics and v) ethics disclosure, with the aim of raising ethical issues that emerged from these studies.
Method: Bibliometric Studies; we conducted a PubMed-based systematic review of all the studies on human genetics that used Cameroonian DNA samples from 1989 to 2009.
Results and Discussion: Fifty articles were identified, involving predominantly research centres from Europe (64%) and America (32%). Only 7 (14%) Cameroonian institutions and 14 (28%) Cameroonian authors were associated with these publications.
At least 52% of publications were devoted to population genetics (variation/migration patterns) amongst 30 Cameroonian ethnic groups. Very few studies concerned public health related genetic issues and only 5 (10%) references were found for hemoglobinopathies like sickle cell anaemia. Almost all DNA samples are ‘banked’ outside of the African continent.
Capacity building, rights to the genetic information and benefits to the individuals, communities and populations who contribute to these studies are addressed.
Conclusions: 1) Our data suggests the need for a wider debate towards building capacity and addressing ethical issues related to human genomic research in sub-Saharan Africa and specifically in Cameroon; 2) National ethical guidelines and regulations concerning the collection, use and storage of human DNA are urgently needed in Cameroon.