Two gene variants provide clues into why some individuals are more susceptible to contracting leprosy than others, according to research published online this week in Nature Genetics.
Furen Zhang and colleagues report a genome-wide association study for susceptibility to leprosy. They identify two new risk variants near IL23R and RAB32 genes. The involvement of the IL23R gene variant suggests that cells’ defense against leprosy bacteria involves a normal cellular process known as autophagy, in which a human cell progressively recycles its own components. In this respect, the mechanism of susceptibility of two very different diseases, leprosy and the inflammatory bowel disease Crohn’s disease, may share a biological basis.