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Do People With HIV Develop Gut Leakiness With Long COVID?

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

A researcher is investigating the potential connections among HIV, digestive issues, and severe cases of COVID.

The Campbell Foundation announced earlier this month an $80,000 grant to support research into long COVID-19, gut bacteria, and HIV.

A professor at The Wistar Institute Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center in Philadelphia, Mohamed Abdel-Mohsen, discovered that severe COVID-19 illness is connected to the passing of bacteria from the gut to the blood — known as gut leakiness — according to a foundation press release. Gut leakiness is a significant cause of chronic inflammation in those living with HIV.

The Wistar Institute conducts biomedical research with special expertise in cancer, immunology, infectious disease research, and vaccine development.

The Campbell Foundation said it awarded Abdel-Mohsen the funding to better understand gut leakiness, COVID-19, and HIV.

“So far, there is no data indicating that people living with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to COVID-19 infection. However, the pre-existing state of ‘gut leakiness’ and chronic inflammation in this population raises the question of whether they may be more prone to Long COVID,” Abdel-Mohsen said.

Long COVID refers to the ongoing symptoms experienced by those who have had COVID-19. The symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, cough, headache, joint pain, sleep problems, dizziness, mood changes, and a variety of others.

“Many members of our Peer Review Board were intrigued by Dr. Abdel-Mohsen’s hypothesis calling it ‘novel’ and ‘unique’,” The Campbell Foundation’s executive director Ken Rapkin said. “Our foundation’s mission has always been to provide seed funding to alternative, non-traditional avenues of research that have direct clinical impact/relevancy to the HIV care/research community. This study dovetails precisely with our stated mission.”

Researchers at the World Health Organization found that the risk of developing severe or deadly COVID-19 was 30 percent higher in people living with HIV than those who do not. The report noted that some underlying conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure, are common in people living with HIV. For those over 65, those conditions increased the severity of COVID-19.

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