Intestinal Bacteria May Fuel Inflammation and Worsen HIV Disease

By Jeffrey Norris    |   UCSF.edu | July 10, 2013

Intestinal Bacteria May Fuel Inflammation and Worsen HIV Disease

Changes in intestinal bacteria may help explain why successfully treated HIV patients nonetheless experience life-shortening chronic diseases earlier than those who are uninfected, according to a new study led by UC San Francisco.

These changes in gut bacteria may perpetuate inflammation initially triggered by the body’s immune response to HIV, researchers reported.
 
Their study was published online July 10 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
 
The new findings support recent research pointing to such persistent inflammation is a possible cause of the early onset of common chronic diseases found in HIV patients, who now can live for decades without immune system destruction and death due to infection thanks to lifelong treatment with antiretroviral drugs. Likewise, in the general population, ongoing inflammation has been linked in some studies to chronic conditions, such as heart disease, dementia and obesity.
 
Studies have shown that inflammation is induced by HIV in both treated and untreated patients, and is associated with – and possibly causes – disease in both, according to Joseph M. McCune, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Experimental Medicine at UCSF and a senior author of the study. McCune has been investigating the causes of chronic inflammation in HIV-infected patients and has treated patients with HIV for more than three decades.
 
"We want to understand what allows the virus to persist in patients who have HIV disease, even after treatment,” he said. “In this study, we see that bacteria in the gut may play a role."
 

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