Researchers identify potential new weapon in battle against HIV infection

    TORONTO, Jan. 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Researchers have discovered a potentially
important new resistance factor in the battle against HIV: blood types. An
international team of researchers from Canadian Blood Services, The Hospital
for Sick Children (SickKids) and Lund University in Sweden have discovered
that certain blood types are more predisposed to contracting HIV, while others
are more effective at fending it off.
    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. A study published today in Blood, which is currently available
online, shows that cells from rare individuals (approximately 1 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 (approximately 5 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," says lead author Dr. 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."
    Increasing the level of the Pk antigen in cells in the laboratory also
resulted in heightened resistance to HIV, while lowering it increased
susceptibility. The Pk molecule has been previously studied extensively by The
Research Institute at the Hospital for Sick Children Senior Scientist Dr.
Cliff Lingwood; Lund University's Dr. Martin Olsson has identified underlying
genetic reasons for Pk blood group variation.
    "This discovery implicates the Pk level as a new risk factor for HIV
infection and demonstrates the importance of blood-group-related science,"
says Dr. Olsson. "The conclusions of this study pave the way for novel
therapeutic approaches to induce HIV resistance and promote further
understanding of the pandemic as a whole," says Dr. Lingwood.
    This study was made possible by grants from: The Canadian Institutes for
Health Research, Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, Ontario HIV Treatment
Network, Canadian Blood Services, SickKids Foundation, Swedish Research
Council, the Medical Faculty of Lund University, and the government grants for
clinical research to Lund University Hospital and Region Skane, Sweden.

    The study is published online today in the journal Blood,

For further information:

For further information: Canadian Blood Services: Tami Clark,
Communications Specialist, (705) 730-1785, cell: (705) 627-8918,; The Hospital for Sick Children: Matet Nebres, Media
Relations, (416) 813-6380,; Lund University: Martin L
Olsson may be reached at 011 + 46-46-173207 or 011 +46-705-773207, or by
e-mail to

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