Castes, migration, immunogenetics and infectious diseases in south India

Community Genet. 2002;5(3):157-61. doi: 10.1159/000066329.


It has been said that the grandest genetic experiment of nature has been conducted in south India in the name of the caste system. One can expect the frequency of an infectious disease to be equal to the product of the frequencies of various indicated loci/alleles, whether physiological, hormonal or immunological, in an endemic area. The sympatrically isolated caste and sub-caste populations of southern India, with differing origins, migration patterns and breeding habits, differ significantly in their HLA and other immune repertoire and are ideal models to study and test this hypothesis. The prevalence of a number of major infectious diseases, including TB and leprosy, are reviewed in different communities in the light of their genetic history.