Some people seem to have a genetic advantage in suppressing their HIV viral load and progressing more slowly to AIDS, according to a new study published July 19 online by the journal Science.

An international team of researchers from the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) identified three gene variants in the DNA of 486 people infected with HIV. They found that patients with specific gene variants in certain immune system cells appear to be much better at controlling the spread of the virus after infection.

“These results not only approximately double our understanding of the factors that influence variation amongst individuals in how they control HIV-1, but also point toward new mechanisms of control,” said lead researcher David Goldstein, Ph.D., of Duke University in a press release issued by Duke University.

This was the first genome-wide approach ever used for studying infectious disease. Goldstein says he hopes that it will help “design better treatments and more effective vaccines.”