Could a Bad Gut Turn Your HIV Into AIDS?

Researchers say that unchecked bad bacteria may cause HIV positive people more health problems.

BY David Artavia

July 17 2013 4:00 AM ET

New research says that despite antiviral medicine, disease-causing bacteria found in the large intestine can be multiplied in HIV positive people, leading to inflammation and fatal chronic diseases. But doctors say that antibiotics have shown to be a preventative tool.

This "gut" bacteria is both good and bad. Some of if helps you digest food, while others can cause disease, however HIV alters this bacteria's behavior in such a way that it usually brings about more harm than good. In people with healthy immune systems, the bad bacteria is normally kept in check by the good bacteria, but this doesn't happen in people with HIV.

In a new study published by Science Transitional Medicine,lead scientist Ivan Vujkovic-Cvijin and his researchers took tissue samples from 24 HIV positive patients and analyzed them with a type of molecular "barcode scanner," then compared them to HIV negative patients.

What they found was a greater existence of bad bacterias, like E. coli, Salmonella and Staphylococcus in patients with the virus, which may very well play a vital part in the progression to AIDS due to the extra challenges inflammation has on a weak immune system. However, treating patients with antibiotics may slow the progression of infection, claimed Vujkovic-Cvijin.

“Work like this suggests that while antiretroviral drugs attack the virus, there may be other problems," he said to Voice of America, "such as this deregulation of the community of bacteria that live in the gut.  And we think maybe by restoring this community back to healthy state, we may actually be able to help those lifespans back to normal."

Though more research is needed to see if antibiodics may improve an HIV infected person's ability to fight disease, many may be doing their own gut check soon.

Tags: Treatment

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