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HIV after DARC

A genetic variation that defends against malaria has mixed consequences

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10:56am, July 16, 2008

Battling malaria for millennia helped Africans build barriers against the parasite that causes it, but that defense has proven to be a double-edged sword for HIV infection.

A genetic variation that prevents a protein called the Duffy antigen from being made in red blood cells defends against malaria. But that defense mechanism increases an individual’s chance of contracting HIV by about 40 percent, an international group of researchers reports in the July 17 Cell Host & Microbe. The genetic variant could account for 2 million to 3 million cases of HIV in Africa, where about 95 percent of the population carries the variant. Once infected, though, people who carry the genetic variant are able to survive longer with the disease.

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