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Aging and HIV Infection Linked With Changes in Gut Microbiome

Researchers in the health care community have been discovering information more about the microbiomes within the human body. Whether it’s the microbiome of the ear or the gut, researchers are continuing to learn how small changes in the microbiota make up of these microbiomes can significantly impact human health.

Specifically, gut microbiome alterations have been associated with frailty in older individuals. Recently, the journal, Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS, published an article on how aging and HIV affect the gut microbiome, and what impacts these factors have on patient health.

Aging is associated with reduced bacterial diversity and dysbiosis. Researchers have noted specific reductions in bifidobacteriaFaecalibacterium prausnitzii, and Clostridium cluster IV over time. They have also noted that very old patients have an increase in bacteria possessing pro-inflammatory properties. Factors that may influence this change are nutritional status, antibiotic use, and chronic use of prescription medications including statins.

The intestine is the primary location for HIV infection resulting in mucosal CD4+ T lymphocyte depletion, viral dissemination, microbial translocation, and immune activation.

Studies are underway to determine exactly how HIV infection changes gut microbiome in comparison with individuals who do not have HIV infection. One aspect that has already been determined in patients with HIV is that microbiota alterations may increase inflammatory responses.

The authors cite numerous studies conducted to determine if prebiotic and probiotic interventions might improve health in individuals with HIV, many of which reported positive effects. Small studies have also linked changes in the microbiota with specific health alterations (eg, myocardial infarction and increased cardiac plaque).

According to the authors of the Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS article, clinicians should counsel individuals with HIV on avoiding health-related behaviors that may alter their gut microbiota and instead practices those that may decrease inflammation. In general, recommendations to avoid alcohol and substance use are prudent. Improving diet, exercise, and sleep have also been associated with better gut microbiotic distribution.

A version of this article originally appeared on
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