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Sunday, 6 January, 2002, 00:01 GMT
Gene offers HIV drug success
AZT drug
Aids drugs try to suppress the activity of the virus
Scientists have identified a gene which may partly explain why some patients react better than others to HIV treatment.

The discovery, by scientists at University Hospital Lausanne in Switzerland, may eventually help doctors tailor treatments specifically for each patient.

Patients with HIV-1 vary considerably in their response to anti-retroviral treatment. One key area is how quickly the body's immune system recovers.

Doctors have long suspected that there could be a genetic difference which causes this.

The researchers tested the theory by looking at a large group of patients with HIV-1, and checking their immune recovery against the presence of particular genes.

Cocktails of drugs

They found that in patients with one particular gene type, called MDR1 3435C/T, there was a far greater increase in certain key immune system cells following treatment.

They suggest this is evidence that the body chemical produced by the gene, called P-glycoprotein, may be important to the success of the anti-retroviral drugs.

This is of interest to doctors trying to unravel why different patients need different combinations of drugs, and perhaps even suggest ways of improving the current cocktails of medication.

However, it will be some time before the discovery, reported in The Lancet medical journal, translates into new medications for patients.

Better targeting

A spokesman for the Terrence Higgins Trust, a leading HIV/Aids charity, said: "We already know that everybody's body reacts differently to treatment, and that it will work better for some people than others.

"But we welcome anything that will better enable us to target drugs."

Although some combinations of drugs will be ineffective for certain groups of patients, there are many other combinations which can be tried.

Increasing success with therapies of this sort are allowing many patients, particularly in developed countries, to suppress the activity of HIV for long periods.

See also:

02 Jan 02 | Health
New way to tackle HIV
28 Nov 01 | Health
HIV creeps up in 'complacent' UK
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