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Studies of animal populations suggest that low genetic heterozygosity is an important risk factor for infection by a diverse range of pathogens, but relatively little research has looked to see whether similar patterns exist in humans. We have used microsatellite genome screen data for tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis and leprosy to test the hypothesis that inbreeding depression increases risk of infection. Our results indicate that inbred individuals are more common among our infected cases for TB and hepatitis, but only in populations where consanguineous marriages are common. No effect was found either for leprosy, which is thought to be oligogenic, or for hepatitis in Italy where consanguineous marriages are rare. Our results suggest that consanguinity is an important risk factor in susceptibility to infectious diseases in humans.

Original publication




Journal article


Biol Lett

Publication Date





574 - 576


Communicable Diseases, Consanguinity, Family Health, Female, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Genome, Heterozygote, Humans, Male, Microsatellite Repeats, Models, Biological, Models, Genetic, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Risk, Risk Factors