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Infectious agents contribute significantly to the global burden of diseases through both acute infection and their chronic sequelae. We leveraged the UK Biobank to identify genetic loci that influence humoral immune response to multiple infections. From 45 genome-wide association studies in 9,611 participants from UK Biobank, we identified NFKB1 as a locus associated with quantitative antibody responses to multiple pathogens, including those from the herpes, retro-, and polyoma-virus families. An insertion-deletion variant thought to affect NFKB1 expression (rs28362491), was mapped as the likely causal variant and could play a key role in regulation of the immune response. Using 121 infection- and inflammation-related traits in 487,297 UK Biobank participants, we show that the deletion allele was associated with an increased risk of infection from diverse pathogens but had a protective effect against allergic disease. We propose that altered expression of NFKB1, as a result of the deletion, modulates hematopoietic pathways and likely impacts cell survival, antibody production, and inflammation. Taken together, we show that disruptions to the tightly regulated immune processes may tip the balance between exacerbated immune responses and allergy, or increased risk of infection and impaired resolution of inflammation.

Original publication




Journal article


American journal of human genetics

Publication Date





295 - 308


The Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. Electronic address:


Humans, Hypersensitivity, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Inflammation, NF-kappa B p50 Subunit, Genome-Wide Association Study, UK Biobank