Genetic defence

Published: Sunday 15 February 1998

researchers in France have found a secondary genetic mutation that could help provide resistance to the aids virus. Alberto Beratto of St Joseph's hospital, Paris, and Luc Montagnier of the prestigious Pasteur Institute-- the co-discoverer of the aids virus -- took blood samples from 18 men at high risk who did not contract the virus. For the last one year, researchers have been indicating that genetic mutations can naturally provide protection against hiv .

The French researchers have made two discoveries: a new genetic mutation and the possibility that this mutation, combined with a previously discovered mutation, provides resistance to hiv . The aids virus enters human cells with the help of proteins called receptors. Earlier, researchers had found that some individuals with unusual resistance to aids have two copies of a gene mutation -- known as Delta 32 -- in the two copies of the gene that produces the protein receptors, known as ccr 5.

The findings show that people can also be resistant if they have the new mutation, named m 303, in once ccr 5 gene copy and Delta 32 in the second ccr 5 gene copy. They can remain resistant even if they have frequent unprotected sex with infected partners. A person who had both the mutations and had been repeatedly exposed to the aids virus, displayed a natural resistance.

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