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Before Robert Koch's work in the late nineteenth century, diseases such as tuberculosis and leprosy were widely believed to be inherited disorders. Heritability of susceptibility to several infectious diseases has been confirmed by studies in the twentieth century. Infectious diseases, old and new, continue to be an important cause of mortality worldwide. A greater understanding of disease processes is needed if more effective therapies and more useful vaccines are to be produced. As part of this effort, developments in genetics have allowed a more systematic study of the impact that the human genome and infectious disease have on each other.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Rev Genet

Publication Date





967 - 977


Biological Evolution, Communicable Diseases, Genetic Linkage, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, HLA Antigens, Humans