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[BEIJING] Researchers in China have identified a human gene that could explain why some Chinese HIV patients develop full-blown AIDS more rapidly than others.

The findings are published in the February issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

While 95 per cent of HIV-infected people develop AIDS within 8–10 years of being infected, the remainder show no symptoms even after ten years.

Research in Europe and the United States has shown that a gene called HLA-Bw4 could be protecting these people from developing AIDS.

Now a team led by Li Taisheng of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing has found another gene — HLA-Bw6 — seems to have the reverse effect, promoting the development of AIDS in Chinese patients with HIV.

"HLA-Bw6 has not been found in European or US patients in numerous previous studies, so this gene is very likely to be specific to the Chinese," Li told SciDev.Net.

His team studied 28 patients with typical disease progression and 15 without AIDS symptoms. They found that nearly half of the first group, but only one patient in the second group, had the HLA-Bw6 gene.

Li admits that researchers do not yet understand how the two genes affect the progression of AIDS, but he says the findings could inspire new research into gene-based HIV/AIDS therapies.

Link to abstract of paper in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes

Reference: Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes 412, 137 (2006)