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AIDS now a Blackman disease

Posted by By Ike Nnamdi The Sun Reporter New York on 2008/07/18 | Views: 2465 |

AIDS now a Blackman disease

A rather controversial research in far away London and Washington finally gives HIV/AIDS a colour. No prizes for guessing; it is Black. And the gene responsible for it is provocatively called the "DARC" gene.

A rather controversial research in far away London and Washington finally gives HIV/AIDS a colour. No prizes for guessing; it is Black. And the gene responsible for it is provocatively called the "DARC" gene.

A controversial study that concluded that black people, especially in West Africa, are more pre-disposed to the dreaded AIDS virus has ignited fire-storm of protest within the scientific community in Washington.

The study, already endorsed by prominent American and British researchers stated that people in the areas stretching from Nigeria to Mauritania and others of African descent have a variation of what they called the "DARC" gene which interferes with the ability to fight HIV in its early stages. The Cell Host and Microbe study said the gene accounts for millions of extra HIV cases in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, the report said people with the gene appear to live longer with HIV than others. While the differences in HIV prevalence in different parts of the world can be partly explained by different social conditions and sexual behavior, scientists said they have long suspected that there may be genetic reasons why the virus is rife in certain communities.

Research at University College London and the University of Texas focused on the Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines (DARC) gene. The gene influences the levels of chemicals called chemokines, which play a role in the body's defenses against viruses, and a variation is held by approximately 90 percent of Africans. The origins of the variation are unclear, but it is thought to have evolved in response to widespread malaria outbreaks by offering protection against that disease.

The researchers did not use volunteers living in Africa, but analyzed data from a 25-year study of Americans from different ethnic backgrounds with HIV. They calculated that, after taking account of social and economic differences, people with the genetic variation were 40 percent more likely to be susceptible to the illness.

If the gene variant were not present in sub-Saharan Africa, they said, they would expect to see approximately an 11% lower burden of HIV in the region. An estimated 24.5 million people are living with the disease there, and there are approximately 2 million deaths per year. Paradoxically, however, having the variant could mea-n that the disease, once caught, does not advance as quickly. People who carry it survive on average an extra two years longer than those who do not, said the researchers. The precise reasons for both the extra vulnerability to HIV and the increased life span of HIV-infected people are not clear, with the scientists suggesting a "complex interplay" between levels of the protein expressed by DARC, levels of chemokines, and levels of the virus.

Professor Robin Weiss, from UCL, one of the researchers, said: "The big message here is that something that protected against malaria in the past is now leaving the host more susceptible to HIV."
A Nigerian expert, Dr Ade Fakoya, from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, said that the findings could explain why some countries had a much higher prevalence of the disease. He said: "There has always been this myth that people in sub-Saharan Africa were more likely to get HIV because of differences in their sexual behavior, or that they are more promiscuous… This shows that it's not that simple, and I think it will be an important message for education programmes in these areas."

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Comments (2)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown