HIV causes chronic defects in immune gut barrier. The metabolism of some intestinal bacteria decreases these alterations and enhances the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs. An investigation conducted by several Spanish institutions, could help design new therapies for preventing complications in these patients.
SPAIN – An international study coordinated by the Foundation for the Promotion of Health and Biomedical Research of Valencia (FISABIO), the University of Valencia, the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Ramón y Cajal Hospital has found that a set of bacteria of the intestinal microbiota that influences immune recovery of people with HIV.
These bacteria may therefore affect the efficacy of the treatment against the virus. The findings, published in the journal eBioMedicine could help design new therapies for preventing complications associated with immunosuppression and chronic inflammation, as distinct diseases associated with aging that appear earlier and more often in people with HIV.
“Patients with HIV undergo persistent alterations in the immune system and chronic intestinal inflammation, caused in part by a toxin produced by human cells in response to infection. We have shown that antiretroviral treatment for certain bacteria in the gut are activated to accumulate these inflammatory molecules inside,” explains Manuel Ferrer, researcher at the CSIC.
“Thereby decreases the free concentration of these toxins in the intestine and reduces inflammation,” continues Ferrer. “In short, individuals who have higher levels of activity of these bacteria show better immune recovery.”
The study analyzed intestinal bacteria from feces of healthy subjects and HIV patients with different degrees of control of infection and immune recovery. Specifically, they studied the activity levels of the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and forming the intestinal flora.
“The results showed that immune changes induced by HIV turn result in a drastic alteration in the activity significantly different intestinal bacteria in patients with immune recovery,” says Andrés Moya, a researcher at the University of Valencia and FISABIO Foundation .
Response to antiretroviral drugs
These results suggest a relationship between bacterial activity and immune response, impaired by HIV or antiretroviral drugs.
“The intestinal bacteria of HIV patients whose body properly responds to antirretrovirals have different composition and behavior to insufficient recovery experienced during treatment,” adds Sergio Serrano-Villar, the Ramón y Cajal Hospital.
“It is possible then that some subjects responsive to antiretrovirals because their immune system favors the presence of these beneficial bacteria at the same time, promotes recovery,” he says.
The help of gut bacteria, according to the study, is critical for immune restoration of people with HIV. Antiretroviral treatments may have a greater effect if combined with therapies aimed at modulating the intestinal microbiota to create a favorable environment for immune recovery.
“The design of new probiotic foods may be an option,” says Ferrer. The study also involved the University CEU San Pablo, the Hohenheim Universität (Germany), the Biomedical Research Centre Network for Epidemiology and Public Health, University Hospital La Paz, the Virgen del Rocio Hospital and the San Carlos Hospital.