Published in the November 15, 2003 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the study in 1,049 HIV-infected children showed that even slight genetic alternations can affect how the virus enters a cell or how the immune system responds to the virus, making some children more susceptible to worsening HIV symptoms, and others less susceptible.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 9,300 children under age 13 in the United States have AIDS. The United Nations notes that 3.2 million children under age 15 in the world are HIV positive.
"Perhaps the greatest potential for our research findings is to help guide treatment for HIV-infected individuals," said the study's senior author, Stephen Spector, M.D., chair of the executive committee of the national Pediatric AIDS Clinic Trial Group, chief of the UCSD Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, and director of UCSD's Mother, Child & Adolescent HIV Program. "Instead of taking the approach that one size fits all, we potentially can individualize HIV treatment based on each person's genetic makeup."
The UCSD team identified several genetic changes, called polymorphisms. One involves a protein molecule called CCR5, which the HIV virus uses to gain entry into macrophages, one of the cells that provide the body's defense against infection.
While past studies have shown that mutant forms of CCR5 appear to confer protection against HIV in adults, the UCSD team focused on gene mutations in the large group of children. They determined that HIV-infected children with a specific polymorphism called CCR5-delta32 had half the rate of disease progression (12 percent v
Contact: Sue Pondrom
University of California - San Diego