Gene flaw may offer immunity to HIV

One in 100 Europeans has a harmless genetic flaw that could make them immune to HIV, the virus that causes Aids, according to new research. The flaw appears to be restricted to Europeans, say a team of US and Belgian scientists who made the breakthrough.

The results, described as "absolutely fascinating" by a leading British researcher into Aids, build on work published this year by a Glaswegian scientist working at one of the world's top Aids research centres, in New York. In March, Dr Bill Paxton, at the Aaron Diamond Research Center reported on a group of 15 people who, despite having been exposed to the virus many times, remained uninfected and healthy.

Now, further genetic tests on two of the 15 have found they have a flaw in a matched pair of genes, leading to cells in their immune system lacking a particular surface protein - which HIV normally uses to infect the cells. The matched flaw is reckoned to occur in about one in every 100 Western Europeans.

Its apparent effect is to make it impossible for HIV to infect them, said Dr Nathaniel Landau, who also works at the Aaron Diamond Center. His research on the two men - Steve Crohn and Eric Fuchs - is published in today's edition of the science journal, Cell.

But the immunity only occurs if both copies of the gene, known as CCR- 5, have the defect - known as being "homo- zygous". If only one of the pair of genes has the flaw, the cells have the surface protein and HIV can infect them, but the progression is much slower.

The result is that in homo- zygous people the virus, which needs to infect cells in order to multiply and become infectious to others, is effectively neutralised. People who were immune in this way could not transmit the disease.

"We have to do more studies in the general population, because so far we have only tested a few hundred people," said Sidney Ho, general manager of the Aaron Diamond Center.

Studies by a Belgian team led by Marc Parmentier in Brussels found that the gene defect was not present in 124 Africans and 248 Japanese, suggesting it is only found in those of European origin. An estimated one in five Europeans has one copy of the flawed gene.

"It's fascinating, because it provides us with a mechanism for the truth we have observed - some people have multiple exposures to HIV but remain uninfected," said Dr Brian Gazzard, clinical research director of the HIV department at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

The cause of the genetic flaw is unknown, but it may be an accidental mutation. It consists of a "deletion" in a gene which instructs the white blood cells, known as CD4 cells, to make a protein known as CKR5.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future