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BACKGROUND: Fucosyltransferase 2 (FUT2) controls the production of digestive and respiratory epithelia of histo-blood group antigens involved in the attachment of pathogens. The aim of our study was to relate FUT2 variants to reported gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses in infancy. METHODS: In the Southampton Women's Survey, FUT2 genetic variants (single-nucleotide polymorphisms [SNPs] rs601338 and rs602662) were genotyped in 1831 infants and related to infant illnesses, after adjustment for sex, breastfeeding duration, and potential confounders. RESULTS: For FUT2 SNP rs601338, the risk ratios for ≥1 bout of diarrhea during ages 6-12 months and ages 12-24 months per additional risk (G) allele were 1.23 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08-1.4; P = .002) and 1.41 (95% CI, 1.24-1.61; P = 1.7 × 10-7), respectively; the risk ratio for ≥1 diagnosis of a lower respiratory illness (ie, pneumonia or bronchiolitis) during ages 12-24 months per additional G allele was 2.66 (95% CI, 1.64-4.3; P = .00007). Similar associations were found between rs602662 and gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses, owing to the high linkage disequilibrium with rs601338 (R2 = 0.92). Longer breastfeeding duration predicted a lower risk of diarrhea, independent of infant FUT2 genotype. CONCLUSIONS: We confirmed that FUT2 G alleles are associated with a higher risk of infant gastrointestinal illnesses and identified novel associations with respiratory illnesses. FUT2 locus variants need consideration in future studies of gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses among infants.

Original publication




Journal article


J infect dis

Publication Date





836 - 843


FUT2 variants, gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses, pediatric illnesses