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MUTATIONS PINPOINT THOSE RESISTANT TO AZT

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Researchers have pinpointed mutations in the AIDS virus that may lead to quick tests to determine if patients are resistant to the AIDS drug AZT.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers from England's Wellcome Research Laboratories - the parent firm of the U.S. company that makes AZT - said they detected common genetic changes in AZT-resistant strains of the AIDS virus.AZT, or zidovudine, is the only government-approved drug to directly fight the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome. About 40,000 Americans are currently taking AZT, according to Burroughs Wellcome Co. in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

The drug has been shown to prolong life in HIV-infected people, but a Wellcome study released earlier this year turned up AZT-resistant strains of HIV in patients who took the drug for six months or more.