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Scientists discover key genetic factor in determining HIV/AIDS risk

People with more copies of a gene that helps to fight HIV are less likely to become infected with the virus or to develop AIDS than those of the same geographical ancestry, such as European Americans, who have fewer copies of the gene, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The findings help to explain why some people are more prone to HIV/AIDS than others.

Scientists believe that this discovery could lead to a screening test that identifies people who have a higher or lower susceptibility to HIV/AIDS, potentially enabling clinicians to adapt treatment regimens, vaccine trials and other studies accordingly. The research appears Jan. 6 in Science Express, an online publication of the journal Science.

"Individual risk of acquiring HIV and experiencing rapid disease progression is not uniform within populations," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID. "This important study identifies genetic factors of particular groups that either mitigate or enhance one's susceptibility to infection and disease onset. In a broader sense, it also suggests how the immune systems of individuals with different geographical ancestries might have evolved in response to microbial stresses and how these differences in the immune system might result in medical approaches to thwart HIV/AIDS or other infections that vary among groups."

The study focused on the gene that encodes CCL3L1, a potent HIV-blocking protein that interacts with CCR5--a major receptor protein that HIV uses as a doorway to enter and infect cells. The senior authors are Sunil K. Ahuja, M.D., of the University of Texas Health Science Center and the Veterans Administration Center for AIDS and HIV-1 Infection in San Antonio, and Matthew J. Dolan, M.D., of the U.S. Air Force's Wilford Hall Medical Center and Brooks City-Base in San Antonio.

The researchers analyzed blood samples
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Contact: Paul Williams
pwilliams@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
6-Jan-2005


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