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Genomewide association studies in allergy and the influence of ethnicity

Barnes, Kathleen C

Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: October 2010 - Volume 10 - Issue 5 - p 427–433
doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e32833de6ee
Genetics and epidemiology: Edited by Michael Kabesch

Purpose of review Asthma and allergic diseases are common and disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities. Large-scale research efforts and the expense committed to multiple genomewide association studies (GWAS) have led to the identification of numerous susceptibility loci for the allergic diseases, but few successes have been reported in populations that are not of European ancestry.

Recent findings Of the more than two dozen GWAS for asthma and allergic disease performed to date, very few have included racial/ethnic minorities. Lessons learned from the studies conducted so far suggest that the GWAS approach must include considerations unique to the ancestral populations represented in the sample, population stratification due to admixture, and recognition that the current coverage of common variants both in the public database and on commercially available single-nucleotide polymorphism chips is inadequate to detect true genetic associations among ethnic/racial groups.

Summary Advancements in the GWAS technology for identifying genes relevant to asthma and allergic disease among under-represented ethnic and racial minorities who suffer most will facilitate the identification and confirmation of validated genetic risk factors that are both unique to minority groups as well as confirm risk factors that are generic to the population at large.

Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Correspondence to Kathleen C. Barnes, Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center, 5501 Hopkins Bayview Circle, Room 3A.62, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA Tel: +1 410 550 2071; fax: +1 410 550 2130; e-mail:

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