Parasites still impose a high death and disability burden on human populations, and are therefore likely to act as selective factors for genetic adaptations. Genetic epidemiological investigation of parasitic diseases is aimed at disentangling the mechanisms underlying immunity and pathogenesis by looking for associations or linkages between loci and susceptibility phenotypes. Until recently, most studies used a candidate gene approach and were relatively underpowered, with few attempts at replicating findings in different populations. However, in the last 5 years, genome-wide and/or multicentre studies have been conducted for severe malaria, visceral leishmaniasis, and cardiac Chagas disease, providing some novel important insights. Furthermore, studies of helminth infections have repeatedly shown the involvement of common loci in regulating susceptibility to distinct diseases such as schistosomiasis, ascariasis, trichuriasis, and onchocherciasis. As more studies are conducted, evidence is increasing that at least some of the identified susceptibility loci are shared not only among parasitic diseases but also with immunological disorders such as allergy or autoimmune disease, suggesting that parasites may have played a role in driving the evolution of the immune system.
Keywords: Genetic epidemiology; genome-wide association studies; leishmaniasis; lymphatic filariasis; malaria; onchocerciasis; schistosomiasis; soil-transmitted helminth diseases; trypanosomiasis.
© 2014 The Authors Clinical Microbiology and Infection © 2014 European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.