Objetives: The purpose of the present article was to evaluate how shamans and the suburban communities of Quito interpret the terminology used in genetics. Methods: One hundred people living in 5 suburban districts of Quito were surveyed as well as 19 shamans of the Salasaca community. Results: The results show that members of both groups are little informed about genetics. As knowledge about genetics is correlated to educational level, which is very poor in both groups, knowledge and understanding of genetics are either very basic or nonexistent. As for the medical practices in treating genetic alterations, the surveys show that while in very severe cases scientific medicine is sought, in most cases explanations and a cure are given by shamanic medicine. Conclusion: There is limited knowledge of genetics and its terminology in the study population. Shamanic and marginal health practices seem to remain prevalent in these communities due to their low costs, the personal attention the individuals receive, and the holistic point of view employed. It is important that the community councils, the medical doctors and the shamans work together to set up community programs on medical education, particularly on genetics.

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