Last week Nature Genetics published– and we duly reported– an important study identifying a newly identified genetic mutation associated with cardiomyopathy that is widely prevalent in India.
If you’re interested in the way important studies like this get translated in the media, you should take a look at a recent entry in the Knight Science Journalism Tracker blog. The blog, an outgrowth of the Knight Science Journalism fellowship program at MIT, tracks and evaluates the coverage of science stories in the media. The entry on the coverage of the Nature Genetics study is fascinating, detailing the dissemination of the story from an initial press release issued by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in England to coverage of the story in newspapers across the world. The blog notes that journalists across the world did a poor job explaining what the mutation “actually means for people’s health. What proportion respond well to treatment, versus those who die early? What is the range of age of onset? And what does ‘almost guaranteed’ to develop heart failure actually mean in terms of percentages?”
And then there’s the under-100 word story in the British tabloid The Sun, with the headline: “Heart mutation hell hits 60 million”.
Melissa Walton-Shirley, the forum moderator of TheHeart.Org, has a wonderful comment on the practical and personal aspect of studies like these on clincians.