There is increasing interest in and understanding of the role of human genetic factors controlling susceptibility/resistance to infectious diseases. This is of particular importance for the two most common mycobacterial infections, tuberculosis and leprosy, because this will allow a genetic dissection of antimycobacterial immunity and should open new fields of preventive and therapeutic measures. In this review we will initially discuss various methods of genetic epidemiology that have been and are being developed to identify human genes controlling infectious diseases, and then illustrate the findings obtained in the numerous studies performed in tuberculosis and leprosy. Although the most convincing results were observed for HLA-DR2 and NRAMP1 (or a closely linked gene) in pulmonary tuberculosis and leprosy subtypes and for a 10p13 locus in paucibacillary leprosy, the molecular basis of their effects remains to be established.
Key wordsMycobacterial infections Tuberculosis Leprosy Genetic epidemiology Antimycobacterial immunity Infectious diseases Genetic predisposition
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