Genetic variation in immune function and susceptibility to human filariasis

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The generation of a draft sequence of a the human genome has provided the opportunity to characterize human diversity, even as it pertains to differences in host response to parasitic infection with organisms that cause lymphatic filariasis, malaria and schistosomiasis. Worldwide, human infection with filarial pathogens represents a significant cause of morbidity throughout the tropics. In particular, epidemiologic evidence suggests that a genetic component contributes to susceptibility and possibly the outcomes of filarial infection. Different approaches can be applied in population-based studies in areas where filarial infection is endemic, such as genome linkage scans and candidate gene analysis for the purpose of identifying genetic risk factors. This review summarizes recent advances in our understanding of genetic contributions to human lymphatic filariasis and addresses the immediate questions facing the field. It is anticipated that the identification of susceptibility genes in filarial infection could provide new insights into therapeutic strategies, including pharmacological intervention and vaccine development, and influence public health measures to control or avert infection.

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