Certain blood types more susceptible to HIV infection

January 16th, 2009 - 12:37 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 16 (IANS) Certain blood types are more susceptible to HIV infection, while others are better at fending it off, according to the latest discovery that could open the way to potential new treatments. A carbohydrate-containing antigen, termed Pk blood group which is distinct from the well-known ABO and Rh blood grouping systems, is present at variable levels on the surface of white and red blood cells in the general population.

The study shows that cells from rare individuals (one in a million) who produce excess of this blood group antigen have dramatically reduced sensitivity to HIV infection.

Conversely, another slightly more common subgroup of people who do not produce any Pk (one in a million) was found to be much more susceptible to the virus.

“This study is not suggesting that your blood type alone determines if you will get HIV,” said study co-author Don Branch of Canadian Blood Services.

“However, it does suggest that individuals who are exposed to the virus, may be helped or hindered by their blood status in fighting the infection,” he said.

Increasing the level of the Pk antigen in cells in the lab also resulted in heightened resistance to HIV, while lowering it increased susceptibility.

Lund University (Sweden) scientist Martin Olsson has identified underlying genetic reasons for Pk blood group variation, said a Lund release.

“This discovery implicates the Pk level as a new risk factor for HIV infection and demonstrates the importance of blood-group-related science,” said Olsson.

The study has been published online in Blood.

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