Today’s top news story: Ian Gibson, a Norwich MP and former scientist has announced that a cluster of child diabetes cases in Norfolk may be caused by inbreeding. Cue, of course, all the usual jokes about Norfolk stereotypes: country yokels marrying their sister, and so on. Dr Gibson, interviewed on Today,* seemed rather affronted by any suggestion that he was being insulting. His response: he was using “inbreeding” in a purely technical manner which us laughing yokels don’t understand. I see.
Much as Dr Gibson has been criticised for “not understanding genetics” and so on, he may well have a point. As I’ve mentioned before, people don’t move around very much. In years gone by, people moved around even less; migration is hard work. It’s not too surprising, in other words, to find that illnesses with a strong genetic factor may have strong regional variations too.** It might be simplistic to say “diabetes may be regionally concentrated because of inbreeding,” because there are lots of other causative factors involved. You can’t pretend, though, that regional variations are unlikely to exist.
* only a few minutes ago! Damn, this blog can be up-to-the-minute occasionally.
** My psychotic aunt – clinically diagnosed, I’m not just being rude about her – is from Norfolk too. I wonder if anyone has looked to see if there are similar clusters of mental illnesses with a strong hereditary component.