VANCOUVER -- A team of North American scientists have cracked a particularly complex genetic code that reveals ethnicity may determine how well a person is able to fend off diseases like HIV or the common flu.

Five scientists from Simon Fraser University are among those who have found a link between race and antibodies, the culmination of years of research that could have implications for the way doctors treat patients.

One of the team's researchers, Corey Watson, says the scientists found that certain ethnicities have missing or added DNA links, a factor that could influence their immunity to certain diseases.

But Watson says the study is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this kind of genetic research and it's too early to tell how the findings will effect drugs, vaccines and treatments that have typically been used to treat whole populations.

He says the discovery also has implications for scientists who do ethnicity research in future, because they'll need to take the ethnicity of DNA samples into account for accurate results.

The study of 425 people of Asian, African and European descent was published last month in The American Journal of Human Genetics.