The potentially life-threatening adverse reactions to Abavacir (ABC), a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor for the treatment of HIV infection, have been known for several years to be limited to individuals expressing the HLA-B57:01 gene. Why the ABC hypersensitivity syndrome is only seen in HLA-B57:01-expressing subjects and what the precise mechanisms underlying this intolerance are remain however controversial. A series of recent studies, particularly a study by Illing et al. recently published in Nature, now answer some of these questions and offer new opportunities to better understand autoimmune disorders and prevent adverse reactions to other drugs. © 2012 IBCB, SIBS, CAS All rights reserved.