Australia is leading the world's first global initiative to improve the diagnosis of genetic disorders and reduce errors in the reporting of genetic variations.
"There is a staggering error rate of up to 40 percent in some reporting of genetic variations," said Professor Richard Cotton, lead author of the paper, Convenor of the Human Variome Project and honorary researcher at the University of Melbourne.
"This means clinicians and specialists cannot solely rely on the research literature to inform the life and death decisions of diagnosis and prognosis of genetic disorders," he added.
More than 60 percent of people worldwide will be affected by a genetic change at some point in their lives that can result in a range of diseases such as cystic fibrosis, epilepsy and cancer.
"In a world first, we aim to collect information on every fault in every gene worldwide. Ultimately the project will provide the first global standardization of the reporting of genetic mutations and their effect on human health so clinicians can reliably diagnose, treat and inform patients," Cotton said.
The completion of the Human Genome Project in early 2000 empowered researchers with the genomic mapping of the human body. But out of the 20,000 human genes mapped, only 3,000 have any information available on their variations.
"In the next few years it is expected that the number of genes in which disease-causing variations are recognized will increase dramatically. Currently there is no standardized way to capture this information and make it of use to clinicians," Cotton said.
The Human Variome Project will produce standards for the storage, transmission and use of genetic variation information which for many will reduce the enormously time consuming task of seeking data to assist in providing patients with information.
The initiative is published in the prestigious scientific journal Science.