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Major breakthrough in HIV genetic research

Professor Simon Mallal Institute for Immunology and Infectious Diseases

Scientists from the across the globe have collaborated to make the first genetic variant discovery in nearly 30 years of HIV research.

The study sought to understand the genetics of people living with HIV who are of African ancestries, with this key population disproportionately affected by the disease. The breakthrough made may lead to new HIV treatment and prevention strategies.

This study was led by scientists from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, and Imperial College London, with Professor Simon Mallal of Murdoch University's Health Futures Institute acting as an international partner and the only Australian contributing author.

Professor Mallal said the discovery of genetic variants may explain transmission rates.

“The findings may explain why certain people in these populations have a lower viral load, which slows down the virus from replicating and transmitting,” Dr Mallal said.

“Although Australia has recorded a steady decline in rates of HIV over the past decade, this research will be significant on a global scale, assisting the UNAIDS goal of ending AIDS as a global health threat by 2030.”

The study assessed the genetics of close to 4,000 people living with HIV, who are of African ancestries around the world and provided informed consent to study how their genetic background influenced their response to the virus.

The scientists found genetic variants that impact a human gene called CHD1L, which restricts HIV replication.  

This is the first time this type of natural HIV restriction has been observed. Scientists believe this gene has a role to play in limiting viral replication.

This means that the virus is unable to replicate as quickly or efficiently in people who carry specific genetic variants compared to others who do not. More research is required to fully understand exactly how this gene is limiting viral replication.

This important discovery will help scientists target their efforts to discover new medical interventions for HIV. It can pave the way for the development of new prevention and treatment strategies.

The full study was published in Nature and can be viewed online. 

Science can change the world. Find out more about studying Medical, Molecular and Forensic Sciences at Murdoch University.
Posted on:

8 Aug 2023

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