Gene Variation Increases Susceptibility to HIV, Slows Disease Progression
A variation in a recently discovered gene called RANTES can "significantly" increase one's chances of being infected with HIV, but also may slow down the progression from HIV to AIDS, the BBC News reports. Slight variations in the gene, which is part of the immune system, can "double a person's susceptibility to HIV." But the same variation also slows progression of the infection to AIDS by 40%. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases called the study a "first," saying it "offers the first genetic evidence that RANTES affects the risk of HIV transmission." He added, "It also adds to the evidence that RANTES can slow the progression to AIDS in HIV-positive individuals, lending support to the search for a drug that mimics this gene's action." BBC News reports that the discovery could "assist scientists who are working on HIV treatments and possible cures." Some companies have already responded to the research, launching further studies on developing a "RANTES-based treatment" that could delay the onset of AIDS. The study is published in the Journal of AIDS (BBC News, 11/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.