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Genetic factors may play an important role in individual susceptibility to infection. Hitherto this problem has been investigated by attempting to relate the distribution of genetic polymorphisms in populations to present or past infection, or by analysing specific infections by classical twin studies or group comparisons. There is reasonable evidence that the common red-cell polymorphisms involving haemoglobin, enzymes or membrane have been maintained by relative resistance to malaria. Blood-group heterogeneity, including secretor status, may reflect varying susceptibility to bacterial, virus and yeast infection. There is increasing evidence that the HLA-DR system may be involved in modifying the clinical course of bacterial, virus and parasitic infection. So far no specific resistance or susceptibility loci similar to those found in murine models have been found in man. DNA analysis, particularly involving restriction fragment length polymorphism associations with candidate genes, offers a valuable new approach to this problem.

Original publication




Journal article


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Publication Date





327 - 348


Communicable Diseases, Disease Susceptibility, Humans, Polymorphism, Genetic