Lethal disease due to hepatic periportal fibrosis occurs in 2%-10% of subjects infected by Schistosoma mansoni in endemic regions such as Sudan. It is unknown why few infected individuals present with severe disease, and inherited factors may play a role in fibrosis development. Schistosoma mansoni infection levels have been shown to be controlled by a locus that maps to chromosome 5q31-q33. To investigate the genetic control of severe hepatic fibrosis (assessed by ultrasound examination) causing portal hypertension, a segregation analysis was performed in 65 Sudanese pedigrees from the same village. Results provide evidence for a codominant major gene, with.16 as the estimated allele A frequency predisposing to advanced periportal fibrosis. For AA males, AA females, and Aa males a 50% penetrance is reached after, respectively, 9, 14, and 19 years of residency in the area, whereas for other subjects the penetrance remains <.02 after 20 years of exposure. Linkage analysis performed in four candidate regions shows that this major locus maps to chromosome 6q22-q23 and that it is closely linked (multipoint LOD score 3.12) to the IFN-gammaR1 gene encoding the receptor of the strongly antifibrogenic cytokine interferon-gamma. These results show that infection levels and advanced hepatic fibrosis in human schistosomiasis are controlled by distinct loci; they suggest that polymorphisms within the IFN-gammaR1 gene could determine severe hepatic disease due to S. mansoni infection and that the IFN-gammaR1 gene is a strong candidate for the control of abnormal fibrosis observed in other diseases.