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N Engl J Med. 2009 Dec 31;361(27):2609-18. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0903753. Epub 2009 Dec 16.

Genomewide association study of leprosy.

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Shandong Provincial Institute of Dermatology and Venereology, Shandong Academy of Medical Science, Jinan, Shandong, China.



The narrow host range of Mycobacterium leprae and the fact that it is refractory to growth in culture has limited research on and the biologic understanding of leprosy. Host genetic factors are thought to influence susceptibility to infection as well as disease progression.


We performed a two-stage genomewide association study by genotyping 706 patients and 1225 controls using the Human610-Quad BeadChip (Illumina). We then tested three independent replication sets for an association between the presence of leprosy and 93 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that were most strongly associated with the disease in the genomewide association study. Together, these replication sets comprised 3254 patients and 5955 controls. We also carried out tests of heterogeneity of the associations (or lack thereof) between these 93 SNPs and disease, stratified according to clinical subtype (multibacillary vs. paucibacillary).


We observed a significant association (P<1.00x10(-10)) between SNPs in the genes CCDC122, C13orf31, NOD2, TNFSF15, HLA-DR, and RIPK2 and a trend toward an association (P=5.10x10(-5)) with a SNP in LRRK2. The associations between the SNPs in C13orf31, LRRK2, NOD2, and RIPK2 and multibacillary leprosy were stronger than the associations between these SNPs and paucibacillary leprosy.


Variants of genes in the NOD2-mediated signaling pathway (which regulates the innate immune response) are associated with susceptibility to infection with M. leprae.

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