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Video: “Gut Reaction” to HIV Infection

, by Reilly O'Neal

BacteriaPurpleChanges in the “communities” of bacteria inhabiting the human gut may contribute to ongoing inflammation in people living with HIV, according to a recently reported study out of the University of California, San Francisco. Chronic inflammation has been implicated in a number of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and dementia, that may affect people with HIV at earlier ages than their HIV-negative counterparts.

As reported in Science Translational Medicine, the research team took colon tissue samples from 32 volunteers: 23 HIV-positive and either treated with antiretrovirals or untreated, and nine HIV-negative “control” volunteers for comparison. While analysis of the tissue samples found that the quantity of bacteria was similar across all volunteers regardless of HIV infection or treatment status, the varieties of bacteria making up the gut microbiome—the collective of microbes the live in and on the human body—differed in intriguing ways.

For a smart and easy-to-follow explanation of the study findings, check out this terrific video from Youreka Science. (Your inner science geek will thank you.)

“What our group found was that HIV-infected people have a very different gut microbiome than those that are uninfected, such that they have many more bacteria that can cause harmful inflammation,” says researcher Ivan Vujkovic-Cvijin. “We also found that some bacteria that were more abundant in HIV-infected individuals had the direct ability to mimic an enzyme that’s very important in controlling chronic inflammation and the integrity of the lining of the gut.”

The research article concludes that further study of how the gut microbiome interacts with its human host is a crucial next step toward manipulating that interaction “as a therapeutic strategy, and may lead to new approaches for the management of HIV disease as well as other chronic inflammatory conditions.”

Reilly O’Neal is a freelance writer and former editor of BETA.

Selected Sources

Norris, J. Intestinal bacteria may fuel inflammation and worsen HIV disease. July 10, 2013. http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/07/107341/intestinal-bacteria-may-fuel-inflammation-and-worsen-hiv-disease.

Vujkovic-Cvijin, I. and others. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota is associated with HIV disease progression and tryptophan catabolism. Science Translational Medicine 5(193):193ra91. July 10, 2013.


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