A breakthrough study published by medical researchers from the University of California may throw new light on reversing the progression to AIDS in People Living with HIV. Body wide inflammation, which is thought to be one of the factors leading to progression to AIDS in PLHIV could be prevented by changing the composition of bacteria in the gut. Could this be a first step towards developing a new form of treatment for PLHIV? Scientists involved in the study believe that these findings could mean that PLHIV can live longer lives without daily antiretroviral treatment.
Professor McCune says ‘Our dream is to be able to make the virus go away allowing HIV-infected people to lead longer lives without the need for lifelong therapy. Perhaps restoring the microbiome to normal will be one strategy to make that happen.”
We all have different types of bacteria residing in our gut. Within our bodies, our intestinal wall acts as an immune barrier preventing harmful bacteria from entering the bloodstream. However upon HIV infection this barrier is weakened, with harmful substances entering the blood, which then travel throughout the body and cause body wide inflammation.
The study ‘Dysbiosis of the Gut Microbiota is associated with HIV disease progression and Tryptophan Catabolism’ studied the differences between gut bacteria of PLHIV and those who were not living with HIV. Overall the gut bacteria of PLHIV was found to contain many bacteria which can cause disease on their own.
What are the implications of these findings? If the composition of the gut microbiome is linked to disease progression of HIV, then theoretically doctors could slow the development of AIDS by changing the composition of bacteria in the gut. This is a tantalizing thought, and perhaps is a preliminary step towards finding alternative treatment for PLHIV.
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