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Genes May Be Key to a Better HIV Vaccine

Findings challenge one-shot-fits-all approach, could guide development of future vaccines

THURSDAY, July 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) — An individual’s genetic makeup may determine whether an HIV vaccine will work, a new study suggests. The findings were published in the July 15 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

Daniel Geraghty, Ph.D., a scientist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues analyzed results of a vaccine trial in Thailand that concluded in 2009. Over 42 months, the vaccine protected against HIV infection 31 percent of the time.

The new analysis revealed that the vaccine was effective only in people with a specific gene variant. In others, the vaccine appeared to raise the risk of infection. To better understand this discrepancy, the researchers analyzed the HLA genotypes of 760 study participants. Those with an HLA gene variant called DPB1*13 were protected 71 percent of the time, they found.

“The gene identified in this study is one of those that has long been known to be directly involved in the immune response to infection,” Geraghty, president and CEO of Scisco Genetics, told HealthDay. It’s essential to a process that helps cells tell the immune system if they’re healthy or infected, he explained. The genetic variation is common, he added. Meanwhile, another genetic variation (DQB1*06) — one the researchers say is more common in the general population than in Thailand — made infection more likely.

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