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Surprising Science

Better Way to Screen Prescription Drugs for Adverse Reactions

A gene that causes certain drugs to have adverse effects in patients has been identified by researchers. The discovery allows doctors to seek a new way to screen prior to administering medication. 

Article written by guest writer Rin Mitchell

What’s the Latest Development? 

Scientists have discovered through clinical blood tests the cause for adverse reactions from prescription medications. They have found that individuals containing high levels of the HLA gene are more susceptible to adverse reactions from drugs, which include rashes, shock, organ failure and even death. HLA is a gene that assists the immune system in distinguishing the cells that belong inside the body from the viruses and bad bacteria. The HLA reveals to the immune system what pieces of proteins or peptides are in the body. In turn, the immune system will allow the peptides to pass and do their job, or set up its defense mechanisms. Abacavir, a drug prescribed to patients who are HIV positive, is one of the drugs that have been pinpointed by scientists to cause a HLA gene-linked hypersensitivity in the immune system. Researchers have been running clinical studies on patients who house the HLA variant B*57:01, using abacavir to figure out how the gene causes the side effects. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Every person has different variations of the HLA gene. The hypersensitivity in specific HLA genes can create harmful adverse reactions in the immune system. When certain drugs enter the body they tend to change the appearance of the peptides. If the immune system doesn’t recognize something within the body, it goes into attack mode. Doctors are working to develop a new screening technique to avoid any harmful conflicts with patient treatments.


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