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Molecular epidemiology is a branch of medical science that focuses on the contribution of potential genetic and environmental risk factors, identified at the molecular level, to the etiology, distribution and prevention of disorders within families and across populations.[1] This field has emerged from the integration of molecular biology into traditional epidemiologic research. Molecular epidemiology improves our understanding of the pathogenesis of disease by identifying specific pathways, molecules and genes that influence the risk of developing disease.[2]

The phrase "molecular epidemiology" was first coined in 1973 by Kilbourne in an article entitled "The molecular epidemiology of influenza".[3] The term became more formalised with the formulation of the first book on "Molecular Epidemiology: Principles and Practice" by Schulte and Perera.[4] At the heart of this book is the impact of advances in molecular research that have given rise to and enable the measurement and exploitation of the biomarker as a vital tool to link traditional molecular and epidemiological research strategies to understand the underlying mechanisms of disease in populations. Since Kilbourne's use of the term "molecular epidemiology" there has been a steady growth in the use of the term in the scientific articles where over 2500 articles have been published by 2009. In the overall scheme of things, for this time frame, this would not ordinarily be deemed a large number however, yet this does not include the vast explosion of scientific literature on biomarkers, genetics, enzymology as well as molecular and cell biology in relation to disease, all of which lend themselves, but which may not be recognised as, to the concepts and philosophies of molecular epidemiology.

In 1993, around the same time as Schulte and Perera published their book on Molecular Epidemiology there was also the formation of the International Molecular Epidemiology Task Force (IMETAF).[5] This was an ambitious venture, which may have been catalysed by the enthusiasm and expertise drawn together in the preparation of the book but IMETAF does not, despite the meritable objectives, seem to have survived. More than likely its demise was due to its objectives perhaps being ahead of their time in a period of very dynamic change in terms of the molecular and genetic revolution that was underway and researchers' focus being on this and where it would take them. However if anything IMETAF is likely to have been a catalyst to the consideration of Molecular Epidemiology at more manageable National Levels where sustainability would also be more likely. One such example is the formation in 1996 of the Molecular Epidemiological Group (MEG-UK) of the United Kingdom Environmental Mutagen Society (UKEMS).[6] Another example, which also reflects how the field of Cancer Research has probably been the most proactive in embracing the term Molecular Epidemiology in a broadest sense was the formation around the same time of Molecular Epidemiology Group of the American Association of Cancer Research MEG/AACR.[7],[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. What is Molecular Epidemiology?. Molecular Epidemiology Homepage. University of Pittsburgh. URL accessed on 15 January 2010.
  2. What is Molecular Epidemiology?. URL accessed on 2008-02-19.
  3. PMID 4121053 (PMID 4121053)
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  4. Schulte, Paul A.; Perera, Frederica P. (1993). Molecular Epidemiology: Principles and Practice, 588, Academic Press.
  5. IMETAF. URL accessed on 2009-07-27.
  6. MEG-UK. URL accessed on 2009-07-27.
  7. Meeting report questioning the formation of MEG/AACR. URL accessed on 2009-07-27.
  8. MEG/AACR. URL accessed on 2009-07-27.

External linksEdit

  • MEG/AACR homepage of the Molecular Epidemiology Group of the American Association for Cancer Research
  • MEG-UK homepage of the United Kingdom Environmental Mutagen Society (UKMES) Molecular Epidemiology Group
  • mEpiWorks homepage of the International Working Group for Molecular Epidemiology (mEpiWorks) - an informal community to support the use of molecular tools in veterinary epidemiology
  • Int J Molec Epidemiol Genet homepage of International Journal of Molecular Epidemiology and Genetics
  • e-CPC homepage of e-Century Publishing Corporation

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