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Genetic variation in some people weakens HIV virus

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th March 2008 03:00 AM

PEOPLE with a genetic variation that slows down HIV may also be causing a mutation to the AIDS virus that makes it less potent if transmitted to others, researchers said recently.

Grain of science

PEOPLE with a genetic variation that slows down HIV may also be causing a mutation to the AIDS virus that makes it less potent if transmitted to others, researchers said recently.

Like other viruses, the HIV virus cannot replicate on its own, but must hijack a cell and turn it into a virus factory. HIV must evade several genes to do this, including an immunity gene called HLA.

“Some people have versions of the HLA gene that are known to force HIV to tolerate mutations that damage its ability to reproduce,” Carolyn Williamson and Salim Abdool Karim at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa wrote in the Public Library of Science journal.

The weaker virus causes slower disease progression in these people. Now it seems this weakened virus may get passed on and act the same way in others — even if they do not have the protective HLA genes, Williamson said.

Williamson, an AIDS researcher at the University of Cape Town, led a study which tracked 21 women without the beneficial form of HLA who were recently infected with the weakened strain of HIV.

The researchers found the women had much lower levels of HIV in the body than those carrying a form of the virus which had not mutated in this way.

Genetic variation in some people weakens HIV virus

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