Unscathed!

 
Published: Sunday 15 September 1996

some people are born lucky. Take the case of a minute segment of humanity belonging to the white people of European ancestry. New research reveals that a small fraction of this community is genetically free from falling prey to the aidsvirus.

Two separate teams of researchers - one led by Nathaniel R Landau at the Rockefeller University in New York and the other headed by Marc Parmentier of the Free University of Brussels - have both come to this conclusion. While Landau's team concentrated on people who were frequently exposed to aids and yet did not contract it, Parmentier's group found that people belonging to this group were not part of the more than 700 hiv-infected European men.

About one per cent of such people apparently lack the gene required to make ccr-5 receptor - a protein on the surface of the human immune system which is one of the two targets of infection by the hiv virus. Scientists harbour the hope that vaccines can be created which can block the action of the ccr-5 receptor from preventing the spread of the infection.

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