Strange but true

Published: Friday 15 December 1995

EVEN the malevolent AIDS virus has its Achilles heel. Australian scientific circles are abuzz with the discovery of a rare strain of the virus among a small group of people in Australia who not developed the killer disease de. having carried the virus for around years. The finding represents a major breakthrough for developing vacccines and drugs on the basis of this newly discovered fact.

"This is the first time it has been shown unequivocally that modification of the genomic structure of the virus can dramatically alter the disease process, perhaps weaken it completely,- says John Mills, who head the Macfarlane Burnet Centre for Medical Research in Fairfield, Victoria, where these findings were uncovered.

The genes of the Australian virus are less of a killer because of certain defects. It has three small segments of genetic material that are missing from its NEF gene (for 'negative factor' because it seems to retard the repplication of the virus) and two that are absent from a particular genetic segment. How-ever, researchers caution that much more work lies ahead of them before they can arrive at definite tive conclusions.

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