National Institutes of Health-supported researchers have found six new regions in the human genome that increase susceptibility to immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IgAN), a major cause of kidney failure worldwide.  The susceptibility genes are found in people of Asian and European ancestries and affect the risk of developing IgAN and the age at which disease develops.  The findings were published online Oct. 12 in Nature Genetics.

Along with nine previously reported genes, these gene regions are also associated with the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease and demonstrate that IgA nephropathy is part of a group of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders that share some risk genes. 

A combination of genes and environmental factors, such as infections, contribute to IgA nephropathy susceptibility, the NIH said in release. In this study, the researchers found that the same genes that confer risk of developing disease may provide protection against intestinal parasites, which may help explain why respiratory or digestive tract infections seem to be a trigger for IgAN.

The ongoing genome-wide association study is funded by the NIH’s Office of the Director, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and National Center for Research Resources (now the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences).