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Biol Lett. 2009 Aug 23;5(4):574-6. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0133. Epub 2009 Mar 18.

Consanguinity and susceptibility to infectious diseases in humans.

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  • 1The Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


Studies of animal populations suggest that low genetic heterozygosity is an important risk factor for infection by a diverse range of pathogens, but relatively little research has looked to see whether similar patterns exist in humans. We have used microsatellite genome screen data for tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis and leprosy to test the hypothesis that inbreeding depression increases risk of infection. Our results indicate that inbred individuals are more common among our infected cases for TB and hepatitis, but only in populations where consanguineous marriages are common. No effect was found either for leprosy, which is thought to be oligogenic, or for hepatitis in Italy where consanguineous marriages are rare. Our results suggest that consanguinity is an important risk factor in susceptibility to infectious diseases in humans.

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