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Genetic Variant Slows AIDS Progression
Date:11/23/2009

HIV patients who have it take longer to get sick, study finds

MONDAY, Nov. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists report that a genetic variation appears to play a major role in slowing disease progression in HIV-infected patients.

In fact, those with the variation appear to take years longer to develop AIDS and die of complications of the disease.

"We're honing in on factors that vary across individuals that make a person more or less susceptible to HIV, in terms of how rapidly someone develops the disease," said study co-author Mary Carrington, a senior principal investigator at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

However, this new knowledge won't translate into immediate benefits for patients with HIV.

AIDS remains a major killer in many parts of the world, but HIV -- the virus that causes it -- doesn't affect infected people the same way. "People progress to AIDS at hugely different rates," Carrington explained. "Some people progress within a year, while some have been infected for 20 years and still control the virus and don't have the disease."

It appears that three factors affect how the disease strikes a person, she said. One is the environment: the world in which a person lives. Another is the patient's genetic makeup. And the third is the genetic makeup of the virus itself.

In the study, published in the Nov. 22 online edition of Nature Genetics, Carrington and colleagues looked at genetic and medical records for hundreds of HIV-infected men. They were trying to see if genetic variations affected how the men fared.

The researchers found that a variation linked to higher levels of a protein known as HLA-C boosted the men's ability to avoid progressing to AIDS. It appeared to delay both the progression to AIDS and to death by years, Carrington said.

The genetic variation makes it easier for the immune system to kill cells that have been infected with t
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