Department of Pharmacotherapy, University of Utah College of Pharmacy, Salt Lake City, USA.
Animal model studies and human epidemiological studies have shown that some infectious diseases develop primarily in individuals with an inherited predisposition. A heritable contribution to the development of severe influenza virus infection (i.e., that which results in death) has not previously been hypothesized or tested. Evidence for a heritable contribution to death due to influenza was examined using a resource consisting of a genealogy of the Utah population linked to death certificates in Utah over a period of 100 years. The relative risks of death due to influenza were estimated for the relatives of 4,855 individuals who died of influenza. Both close and distant relatives of individuals who died of influenza were shown to have a significantly increased risk of dying of influenza, consistent with a combination of shared exposure and genetic effects. These data provide strong support for a heritable contribution to predisposition to death due to influenza.