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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Dec 22;112(51):E7118-27. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1521644112. Epub 2015 Nov 30.

Human genetic basis of interindividual variability in the course of infection.

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St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases, Rockefeller Branch, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York, NY 10065; Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases, Necker Branch, Inserm U1163, Necker Hospital for Sick Children, 75015 Paris, France; Imagine Institute, Paris Descartes University, 75015 Paris, France; Pediatric Hematology and Immunology Unit, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, Necker Hospital for Sick Children, 75015 Paris, France


The key problem in human infectious diseases was posed at the turn of the 20th century: their pathogenesis. For almost any given virus, bacterium, fungus, or parasite, life-threatening clinical disease develops in only a small minority of infected individuals. Solving this infection enigma is important clinically, for diagnosis, prognosis, prevention, and treatment. Some microbes will inevitably remain refractory to, or escape vaccination, or chemotherapy, or both. The solution also is important biologically, because the emergence and evolution of eukaryotes alongside more rapidly evolving prokaryotes, archaea, and viruses posed immunological challenges of an ecological and evolutionary nature. We need to study these challenges in natural, as opposed to experimental, conditions, and also at the molecular and cellular levels. According to the human genetic theory of infectious diseases, inborn variants underlie life-threatening infectious diseases. Here I review the history of the field of human genetics of infectious diseases from the turn of the 19th century to the second half of the 20th century. This paper thus sets the scene, providing the background information required to understand and appreciate the more recently described monogenic forms of resistance or predisposition to specific infections discussed in a second paper in this issue.


human genetics; immunology; infectious diseases; pediatrics; primary immunodeficiency

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