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J Infect Dis. 2008 Oct 15;198(8):1227-36. doi: 10.1086/591946.

High heritability but uncertain mode of inheritance for total serum IgE level and Schistosoma mansoni infection intensity in a schistosomiasis-endemic Brazilian population.

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Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



Evidence of genetic control for total serum IgE (tIgE) level has been reported in multiple populations, although populations with substantial exposure to helminths have yielded lower estimates of heritability, despite evidence suggesting that genes also control a significant portion of the variation in the number of Schistosoma mansoni eggs per gram of fecal matter.


By use of a whole-population ascertainment scheme, 822 individuals were enrolled from a schistosomiasis-endemic area in Conde, Bahia, in Brazil. Heritability was estimated by using an additive polygenic model, and segregation analysis was performed for 2 quantitative traits, tIgE level and egg count.


After adjusting for nongenetic covariates, the heritability of log-transformed tIgE level and log-transformed egg count was estimated at 60% and 31%, respectively. No evidence for a single major gene controlling tIgE level or egg count was observed in segregation analysis for 781 individuals and 403 individuals, respectively, in 318 families, however, which suggests complex biological control.


The high heritability of tIgE level indicates that genetic factors are likely to control tIgE level even in the presence of helminthic infection. Substantial heritability for the burden of S. mansoni infection was confirmed in these Brazilian families. Further genetic studies will be needed to dissect the specific genetic factors that underlie these traits.

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