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Why medical studies of diverse populations benefit humanity as a whole


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IN 1958, British surgeon Denis Burkitt was in Uganda studying an obscure form of cancer that appeared to predominantly affect only East African children. Further studies revealed a peculiar pattern of both geography and climate, suggesting it might be caused by a microbe. At the time, the view was that most cancers were caused by exposure to harmful environmental agents. But in 1964, a microbial cause was confirmed with the discovery of the first human “oncovirus” in a tissue sample from an African individual. It soon became clear that this virus, now called Epstein-Barr virus, and other infectious …

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