Genes predict allergies to drug

From Seattle, at the 9th Annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections

Genetic differences among people infected with HIV might help identify the 5 percent of patients who will suffer allergic reactions, ranging from rashes to anaphylactic shock, when given the antiretroviral drug abacavir.

A team of Australian researchers used a genetic test to look for variants of the proteins that make up the part of the immune system called the major histocompatibility complex. Among 200 patients with HIV treated with abacavir, the 13 with a particular constellation of three gene variants within the complex all developed an allergic reaction to the drug, says Simon Mallal of the Centre for Clinical Immunology and Biomedical Statistics at Royal Perth Hospital in Australia.

Another 5 patients developed hypersensitivity reactions to abacavir but didn’t share this complete sequence of gene variants. Mallal reported his results in the March 2 Lancet as well as at the meeting.

The study supports the principle that genetic tests help physicians predict a drug’s effect on patients, says Seth Hetherington of GlaxoSmithKline in Research Triangle Park, N.C., who has been conducting related experiments with abacavir.

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