So what is CCR5?
To put in in simple terms, it is a portal of entry for HIV virus to enter into the immune cells of the human body. Think of CCR5 as a door. The HIV virus uses it to enter into immune cells in the human body.
So how does a mutation of CCR5 make someone immune to HIV infection?
Because of the mutation, it causes the “door” to be “locked” thus preventing HIV virus from entering the immune cell.
How common is this mutation?
In persons from Northern Europe, about 1% are born with this mutation. In these group of people, both copies of their genes (that is to say that they got one copy of the mutated gene from each of their parents) are mutated and thus making them immune to HIV infection.
This mutation has not been found in people from African, East Asians descent thus far.
Does this mean that if I have the double mutated gene for CCR5 I will not be infected with HIV?
Generally, if you have a double mutation of the gene for CCR5, you have high resistance to HIV infection but it may not be absolute as there have been cases of persons with both mutated genes and yet became HIV infection.
Is there a way to know if I have the mutation?
Yes. There is a genetic test that would allow for the detection of such mutation of the CCR5. The test involves taking som blood and sending it to the lab to do the genetic test.
How long will the test results take?
Generally, it will take 3-4 weeks for the results to known.
Given that we know that mutation in CCR5 gene can increase the resistance to HIV infection, are there any drugs that are in development or in market that blocks CCR5?
Currently, there is a drug called Maraviro in the market that essentially binds to CCR5 thus preventing HIV virus from binding to the CCR5. However, it is generally used in cases of HIV with multiple resistance to other standard HIV drugs.
If you wish to find out more about CCR5 testing, you can speak to your doctor further.