Little is known of the role of human leucocyte antigen (HLA) alleles or non-HLA alleles in determining resistance, susceptibility or the severity of acute viral infections. Dengue fever (DF) and dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) are suitable models for immunogenetic studies, yet only superficial efforts have been made to study dengue disease to date. DF and DHF can be caused by both primary and secondary infection by any of the four serotypes of the dengue virus. Differences in host susceptibility to infectious disease and disease severity cannot be attributed solely to the virus virulence. Variations in immune response, often associated with polymorphism in the human genome, can now be detected. Data on the influence of human genes in DF and DHF are discussed here in relation to (1) associations between HLA polymorphism and dengue disease susceptibility or resistance, (2) protective alleles influencing progression to severe disease, (3) alleles restricting CD4(+) and CD8(+) T lymphocytes, and (4) non-HLA genetic factors that may contribute to DHF evolution. Recent discoveries regarding genetic associations in other viral infections may provide clues to understanding the development of end-stage complications in dengue disease. The scanty positive data presented here indicate a need for detailed genetic studies in different ethnic groups in different countries during the acute phase of DF and DHF on a larger number of patients.