Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have led to the discovery of several susceptibility loci for leprosy with robust evidence, providing biological insight into the role of host genetic factors in mycobacterial infection. However, the identified loci only partially explain disease heritability, and additional genetic risk factors remain to be discovered. We performed a 3-stage GWAS of leprosy in the Chinese population using 8,313 cases and 16,017 controls. Besides confirming all previously published loci, we discovered six new susceptibility loci, and further gene prioritization analysis of these loci implicated BATF3, CCDC88B and CIITA-SOCS1 as new susceptibility genes for leprosy. A systematic evaluation of pleiotropic effects demonstrated a high tendency for leprosy susceptibility loci to show association with autoimmunity and inflammatory diseases. Further analysis suggests that molecular sensing of infection might have a similar pathogenic role across these diseases, whereas immune responses have discordant roles in infectious and inflammatory diseases.
National Natural Science Foundation of China (81371721, 81271746, 31200933 and 81101187), the National 863 Program of China (2014AA020505), the Shandong Provincial Advanced Taishan Scholar Construction Project and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research of Singapore.