The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 caused epigenetic changes in Tutsi women who were pregnant at that time, as well as in their children.
According to a study published by the journal Epigenomics, the trauma suffered by these women during the genocide, perpetrated by the Hutus, led to numerous chemical modifications of their DNA.
This study was conducted by a team of academics from Florida and Rwanda. They analyzed the genome of twenty pregnant women living in Rwanda at the time of the genocide.
Then, the scientists compared the results with the analyzes of the genomes of sixteen Tutsi women who were pregnant at the time of the genocide, but living outside the country at the time of the events. The genome of the children of these 36 women was also studied.
The result is final. Among the women present in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, as well as for their children, many epigenetic modifications occurred at the level of the genes involved in the risk of mental disorders, such as depression in particular.
These people are therefore more likely to be affected by mental disorders compared to the general population.
Changes that increase the toll of the Rwandan genocide
The study specifies that epigenetic modifications affect gene expression without modifying the DNA sequence.
In addition, several other scientific studies have shown that such modifications are transmitted over several generations and much faster than genetic mutations.
The newspaper The East African has also pointed out that “behaviour and the environment can cause changes that affect the functioning of genes”
“The genocide, which resulted in the death of an estimated one million people, mostly Tutsis, also took a heavy toll on the survivors, who today suffer from post-traumatic stress and other mental health disorders” , concluded The East African.