Rheumatic heart disease (RHD), an autoinflammatory heart disease, was recently declared a global health priority by the World Health Organization. Here we report a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of RHD susceptibility in 1,163 South Asians (672 cases; 491 controls) recruited in India and Fiji. We analysed directly obtained and imputed genotypes, and followed-up associated loci in 1,459 Europeans (150 cases; 1,309 controls) from the UK Biobank study. We identify a novel susceptibility signal in the class III region of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex in the South Asian dataset that clearly replicates in the Europeans (rs201026476; combined odds ratio 1.81, 95% confidence intervals 1.51-2.18, P = 3.48×10-10). Importantly, this signal remains despite conditioning on the lead class I and class II variants (P = 0.00033). These findings suggest the class III region is a key determinant of RHD susceptibility offering important new insight into pathogenesis while partly explaining the inconsistency of earlier reports.
The Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX3 7BN, UK.