Africa is the ultimate source of modern humans and as such harbors more genetic variation than any other continent. For this reason, studies of the patterns of genetic variation in African populations are crucial to understanding how genes affect phenotypic variation, including disease predisposition. In addition, the patterns of extant genetic variation in Africa are important for understanding how genetic variation affects infectious diseases that are a major problem in Africa, such as malaria, tuberculosis, schistosomiasis, and HIV/AIDS. Therefore, elucidating the role that genetic susceptibility to infectious diseases plays is critical to improving the health of people in Africa. It is also of note that recent and ongoing social and cultural changes in sub-Saharan Africa have increased the prevalence of non-communicable diseases that will also require genetic analyses to improve disease prevention and treatment. In this review we give special attention to many of the past and ongoing studies, emphasizing those in Sub-Saharan Africans that address the role of genetic variation in human disease.
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