Leprosy is an ancient chronic infectious disease that, despite the existence of efficient therapy, still persists as a public health problem in six countries, including Brazil, the world leader in leprosy prevalence. During the past decades, leprosy has been studied from a somewhat unusual perspective for an infectious disease: modern methods for experimental analysis have been applied to demonstrate the existence of an important genetic effect controlling host susceptibility to leprosy and its phenotypes. These studies indicate that a favorable host genetic make-up, combined with environmental and pathogen-related variables, has a high impact on the definition of susceptibility to both infection and clinical manifestation of leprosy. To date, several genes and genomic regions have been implicated in the control of leprosy susceptibility. Additional ongoing studies aim at advancing further in the elucidation of the molecular basis of host susceptibility to the disease. This body of evidence may lead to new strategies for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of leprosy and other infectious diseases.
Genetics; Genetic predisposition to disease; Leprosy; Polymorphism, genetic