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Genetic Variant Lowering HIV Viral Load Uncovered in People of African Ancestry

A genetic variant in the CHD1L gene may influence how well HIV replicates, affecting viral load among people with HIV. Researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and elsewhere conducted a genome-wide association study of set-point viral load among nearly 4,000 people of African ancestry living with HIV-1. Individuals of African ancestry, the researchers note, have been reported to naturally lower HIV viral loads. As they report in Nature, they homed in on signal on chromosome 1 associated with a lower set-point viral load and further traced this effect to a variant in CHD1L, a gene that encodes a DNA repair helicase. Within macrophage cell line studies, the researchers further found that when the immune cells with knocked down or knocked out CHD1L were infected, they had increased HIV-1 replication. "Our findings provide insights into potential therapeutic targets, which are needed to continue the fight against HIV-1," senior author Jacques Fellay from EPFL says in a statement. "In addition, our results underscore the importance of performing genomic studies in diverse ancestral populations to better address their specific medical needs and global health inequities." The researchers estimate that between 4 percent and 13 percent of people of African ancestry carry this variant.

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