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Q&A: HIV and the Gut Microbiome

Posted on July 30, 2018

Source: NIAID Now

Q&A: HIV and the Gut Microbiome

"The gut microbiome—the community of bacteria and other microbes naturally present in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract—plays a critical role in human health. NIAID Now spoke with Jason Brenchley, Ph.D., about the link between the gut microbiome and HIV infection, and his lab’s recent research findings. Dr. Brenchley is senior investigator of the Barrier Immunity Section in NIAID’s Laboratory of Viral Diseases.

What is gut dysbiosis? Is it common in people living with HIV?

'Dysbiosis' refers to an alteration to the types of bacteria that normally inhabit the GI tract. Studies in humans have shown that the gut microbiome is dysbiotic in people living with HIV. This dysbiosis is associated with decreases in a type of bacteria that provides nutrients important for maintaining the health of the structural barrier of the GI tract, which prevents the microbiome from coming into direct contact with the GI tissues. When these bacteria are depleted in the case of HIV, the tight structural barrier of the GI tract weakens. The consequence of that is that microbial products cross the barrier into the tissues, where they can enter the bloodstream and cause systemic, or whole-body, inflammation. We refer to this as 'microbial translocation.'

Recent research suggests that a large degree of the gut dysbiosis observed in people living with HIV is not caused by the virus itself. Rather, gut dysbiosis may result from behaviors or risk factors associated with susceptibility to HIV infection."


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