The Gene That Turns Epilepsy Treatment Deadly

Screening patients for a gene variant before starting epilepsy treatment could reduce the incidence of life-threatening drug reactions.

Drug-induced hypersensitivity reactions (DIHRs) are serious and life threatening. A common example is the use of the antiepileptic drug carbamazepine, but the mechanisms that trigger it are unclear. Current scientific consensus holds that people who have a specific variation of the ‘human leukocyte antigen B’ (HLA-B) gene, which provides the code for making a protein that plays a critical role in the immune system, are more at risk of DIHR.

However, the mechanism linking this gene to DIHR is currently unknown. As this specific variation, called HLA-B*15:02, is fairly common in people of South-East Asian descent, this is a serious problem for clinicians in the region. Researchers at Universiti Teknologi MARA Selangor in Malaysia used computer modelling to mimic and analyse how the protein encoded by HLA-B*15:02 interacts with a range of antiepileptic medications.....