European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 165, Issue 5, pp 299–305

Useful probability considerations in genetics: the goat problem with tigers and other applications of Bayes’ theorem

Original Paper


Probabilities or risks may change when new information is available. Common sense frequently fails in assessing this change. In such cases, Bayes’ theorem may be applied. It is easy to derive and has abundant applications in biology and medicine. Some examples of the application of Bayes' theorem are presented here, such as carrier risk estimation in X-chromosomal disorders, maximal manifestation probability of a dominant trait with unknown penetrance, combination of genetic and non-genetic information, and linkage analysis. The presentation addresses the non-specialist who asks for valid and consistent explanations. The conclusion to be drawn is that Bayes’ theorem is an accessible and helpful tool for probability calculations in genetics.


Bayes’ theorem Carrier Penetrance Error rate Linkage analysis Monty Hall problem 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Klinische Genetik, Medizinische Fakultät Carl Gustav CarusTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany

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