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International Hunt is On for Genes Affecting HIV Response Research will examine genetic differences among HIV-infected patients


USIS Washington File - June 20, 2006

Washington � Researchers from the United States, Europe and Australia are going to pool their access to patient groups in a large-scale analysis of HIV infected patients, hoping the shared knowledge will lead them to a better understanding of the body's response to the virus.

Led by scientists at North Carolina's Duke University, the collaboration announced June 20 will try to find out what the body's immune system is really doing during HIV infection, and try to use that knowledge to produce an effective vaccine. Of special interest are those rare HIV-infected individuals who control infection on their own, whose systems may provide a critical clue in vaccine development.

The work is led by the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI), established at Duke with a multimillion-dollar grant from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research.

"We intend to use natural genetic differences among people to point the way toward the most promising avenue for vaccine development," said David Goldstein, director of CHAVI's genetic research. "We wanted to find out why some people naturally hold the virus down to almost undetectable levels while others lose control of it quickly." The collaborators in EuroCHAVI, as the new effort is known, will be working to understand what genetic influences might cause the widely varying immune responses that individuals have after HIV infection, and the differences in susceptibility to infection.

The nine research groups involved in EuroCHAVI will recruit 600 HIV-infected patients from different countries and then use state-of-the-art genome technology to analyze the genetic factors that contribute to disease.

In a briefing conducted earlier this month, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci explained that the HIV virus "has an uncanny ability to elude the immune system under natural circumstances, which has made it very difficult to develop a vaccine." Fauci made the remarks as the medical community noted the 25th anniversary of the first report of an unusual disease that would later come to be recognized as HIV/AIDS. (See related article.) EuroCHAVI collaborators include the Swiss HIV cohort; the IRSICaixa study and the Clinic Hospital cohort in Spain; the Danish HIV cohort; the Perth-Western Australia cohort; the Modena cohort and the San Raffaele Scientific Institute cohort in Italy; the German National Competence Network for HIV/AIDS; and the Guy's, King's College and St. Thomas' Hospitals study in the United Kingdom. The University of Geneva, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and the University of Ioannina in Greece will partner as analytical centers.

A Duke University press release on the collaboration is available on the EurekAlert Web site, a global news service operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

For information on U.S. policies and programs, see HIV/AIDS.


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Information in this article was accurate in June 20, 2006. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.