Newly identified African genetics may lead to improved HIV treatments

By Laureen Fagan - 2 August 2023 at 6:14 pm
Newly identified African genetics may lead to improved HIV treatments

A genetic change that occurs only in people of African descent may offer clues that lead to improved HIV treatment, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. The authors say the study also underscores the importance of research specific to Africans.

“Although there have been large studies of (set point viral load) control in populations of European descent, much less has been done in populations of African ancestries, which are still drastically underrepresented in human genomic studies,” said the authors, led by Dr. Jacques Fellay, above, of Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

“This is both a significant problem considering the disproportionate HIV burden in Africa and a missed opportunity given the high genome diversity among people of African descent, which fosters a high probability of genetic discoveries.”

The new study included at least 50 research partners from all over the world, among them the Zambia Emory HIV Research Project and the Uganda Virus Research Institute & London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  The scientists analyzed the genomes from 3,879 individuals living with HIV-1, all of them with African ancestry.

Their interest lies in a gene called CHD1L, which allows for damaged DNA to be repaired. Changes specific to African populations, though, were “linked to the spontaneous control of the most common and virulent type of HIV, called HIV-1.”

The knowledge may lead to improved treatments, the researchers said. Paul McLaren at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory, and Manjinder Sandhu at Imperial College London, served with Fellay as study co-authors.

Image: EPFL file

Laureen Fagan

Laureen Fagan

Laureen is the editor of Africa Times

Laureen is a freelance journalist creating high-quality, informed content on international affairs, politics and technology. She has worked both in and out of newsrooms since 2000. She is a former paramedic with significant experience in community resilience and nonprofit community development initiatives, and maintains "a passion for action" on sustainability and climate change. She also is trained in conflict resolution and diversity, and has special interests in science and medical reporting, and culture and religion issues. Laureen received her MSJ from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in the United States, and completed additional graduate study in theology at University of Notre Dame. Follow Laureen on Mastodon at

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