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Open Access Research article

Analysis of eight genes modulating interferon gamma and human genetic susceptibility to tuberculosis: a case-control association study

Marlo Möller1*, Almut Nebel2, Paul D van Helden1, Stefan Schreiber2 and Eileen G Hoal1

Author Affiliations

1 Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, MRC Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology and the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, PO Box 19063, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg 7505, South Africa

2 Institute for Clinical Molecular Biology, Christian-Albrechts-University, Schittenhelmstrasse 12, 24105 Kiel, Germany

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:154  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-154

Published: 7 June 2010



Interferon gamma is a major macrophage-activating cytokine during infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative pathogen of tuberculosis, and its role has been well established in animal models and in humans. This cytokine is produced by activated T helper 1 cells, which can best deal with intracellular pathogens such as M. tuberculosis. Based on the hypothesis that genes which regulate interferon gamma may influence tuberculosis susceptibility, we investigated polymorphisms in eight candidate genes.


Fifty-four polymorphisms in eight candidate genes were genotyped in over 800 tuberculosis cases and healthy controls in a population-based case-control association study in a South African population. Genotyping methods used included the SNPlex Genotyping System™, capillary electrophoresis of fluorescently labelled PCR products, TaqMan® SNP genotyping assays or the amplification mutation refraction system. Single polymorphisms as well as haplotypes of the variants were tested for association with TB using statistical analyses.


A haplotype in interleukin 12B was nominally associated with tuberculosis (p = 0.02), but after permutation testing, done to assess the significance for the entire analysis, this was not globally significant. In addition a novel allele was found for the interleukin 12B D5S2941 microsatellite.


This study highlights the importance of using larger sample sizes when attempting validation of previously reported genetic associations. Initial studies may be false positives or may propose a stronger genetic effect than subsequently found to be the case.