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Gene in Black People Can Result in Needless Bone Marrow Biopsies

Lower levels of white blood cells in a patient’s blood sample can signal a health problem. However, some healthy Black Americans carry a gene variant that gives rise to a low white blood cell count, which may lead doctors to prescribe potentially unnecessary and painful bone marrow biopsies, according to findings published in JAMA Internal Medicine, HealthDay News reports.

For the study, researchers reviewed information on 399 Black patients under age 90 who underwent a bone marrow biopsy between 1998 and 2020. Scientists found that of the 35 patients who received the procedure because their white blood cell count was low, 34 of them (97%) possessed the genetic variant. (In comparison, 67% of Black patients got bone marrow biopsies for other reasons.)

Researchers also noted that the biopsies for 97% of those patients with the gene variant were normal, compared with 55% normal for those who underwent biopsies for other reasons. (Among Black Americans, 63% of individuals express two copies of this gene variant.)

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