Some people who contract HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, maintain low amounts of the virus in their bodies for years. These long-term nonprogressors—so called because a decade or more can pass before they develop full-blown AIDS—have attracted great attention from researchers.
Now, using powerful, whole-genome scans, researchers have identified three genetic variations that partially explain why some HIV-infected people develop AIDS quickly while others keep it at bay.
"This is a good head start to unraveling the genetic basis of good control of viral load," says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md., which funded the study. Study leader David Goldstein of Duke University in Durham, N.C., says that the ultimate goal is to develop drugs or vaccines that boost the immune system's ability to fight HIV.