What is a medical zebra?

A medical zebra is rare a disease, one that is so rare that most doctors have not encountered a patient with that disease. Having only read about the disease in a textbook or in the case of many recently defined diseases, not at all. It is therefore difficult for medical doctors to diagnose these individuals. The term originates from a popular saying among clinicians, "when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras", meaning that when diagnosing a patient, one should first exclude the most common causes for a patients symptoms, before looking for rare causes. While this is a good idea in everyday practice, one must not forget to make the effort to go "zebra hunting" when the common causes don't explain the full clinical picture. This is especially important with the current growth of genetics and personalised medicine.

Due to the rarity of these diseases it is often hard to find a single resource where these diseases are described in an approachable and understandable way.

Medical Zebras is a medical genetics learning platform for medical students and healthcare workers, with an aim to do just that. Here we provide short form reviews linking the pathology to the symptoms (when the cause is known), highlighting the most important features of each disease for ease of understanding and learning.

As medical genetics is expanding exponentially, it is vital for all clinicians to learn about the emerging genetic diseases affecting their populations, which genetic methods are available to aid in diagnosis, as well as their limitations, and what gene therapies are available. I have therefore created this website, and plan on expanding it daily to help health care students and workers learn about medical genetics in a way that emphasizes understanding rather than rote memorization. I have tried to make each subject accessible and as short as possible, so that health care workers and students can make the best of their limited time.

If you have any particular subject you would like for me to write about, please contact me: themedicalzebras@gmail.com.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.

The Medical Zebra