A study this month in Science magazine announced that scientists have identified three genes that help some HIV-infected people slow down the spread of the virus and postpone the onset of AIDS.

This new information may help doctors to develop a vaccine and drugs to help prevent and fight off the HIV virus.

The international team of researchers scanned the genomes of 486 HIV-infected people, and identified variations in the three different genes that may help the immune systems of some people control the virus while others fail to control HIV proliferation.

Senior author of the study, David Goldstein, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University and director of the school’s Centre for Population Genomics and Pharmacogenetics, explained:

“There are new mechanisms of control of HIV1 that are implicated by these findings.

“We don’t yet know how to capitalise on those new mechanisms to develop new treatments, but it establishes directions for exploring new treatment options.”

As of now, AIDS is an incurable disease where the virus damages the immune system, but before the virus has time to cause full-blown AIDS, the body wages a battle against the disease by creating key immune cells to try to prevent HIV from multiplying out of control.

By identifying these specific genes and isolating them, the researches hope they can recreate them the effects at a much higher level and can create an effective HIV vaccine.

The gene called HLA-C does not appear to shut down when infected by HIV the study states, and, therefore, it appears to be a rather good potential vaccine target.

Doctors warn that re-infection of different strains of the virus increases the chance of developing symptoms earlier on and could limit the effectiveness of future treatment.

Dylan Vox

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