HIV Infection Associated with Altered Gut Microbiota, Plasma Metabolite Profiles in Women


Modulating gut microbiota could have therapeutic benefits for people living with HIV, according to a recent study that found HIV infection in women was associated with altered gut microbiota and distinct plasma metabolite profile.


HIV infection in women was associated with an altered gut microbiota and a distinct plasma metabolite profile, a new study found.

The study, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, analyzed stool samples of 185 women, including 128 with long-standing HIV infection and 57 who were not infected.

“Our integrative analyses identified altered gut microbiota with related functional capacities that might be associated with disrupted plasma metabolite profiles in HIV-infected women,” the study authors wrote.

Led by investigators at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, the study found higher abundances of Ruminococcus and Oscillospira and lower abundances of Bifidobacterium and Collinsella among those women who were infected with HIV. Those women had a plasma metabolite profile with elevated glycerophospholipid levels.

Samples were collected from 2015 to 2017 for the Women’s Interagency HIV Study, a multisite prospective cohort study of HIV among women in the United States that began in 1993. Demographic variables were similar among HIV-positive and HIV-negative study participants.

Among the HIV-positive participants, 88% reported current antiretroviral therapy (ART) use, and 73% had normal CD4+ T cell counts and undetectable viral loads.

“Associations of HIV infection with these four bacterial genera did not change after excluding antibiotics users, or HIV-infected women without ART use,” the study authors wrote.

The study included 16S rRNA V4 region sequencing performed using MiSeq platform to analyze the stool samples. Phylogenetic Investigation of Communities by Reconstruction of Unobserved States (PICRUSt) software determined the functional potential of the gut microbiota. Plasma metabolite profiles were determined by analyzing 133 amino acids, biogenic amines, acylcarnitines and lipids using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry.

The study found elevated glycerophospholipid levels among women with HIV infection and a correlation between Ruminococcus and Oscillospira,and host plasma lipid profiles. It also found lower levels of the common probiotic bacterial genera, Bifidobacterium among women with HIV.

“Our study supports the concept of potential therapeutic role of modulating the gut microbiota in people living with HIV infection,” the authors wrote.

The study noted that women with HIV have been under-represented in studies of gut microbiome in HIV infection.

Previous research suggested that HIV infection was associated with decreased gut microbial α-diversity, however the current study found no statistically significant differences in bacterial community α-diversity indices between the two study groups. It also didn’t replicate previous findings of an association between HIV infection and Prevotella, suggesting that other cofounders may have influenced Prevotella.

Further research is warranted to examine the effects of other possible factors. For example, the study showed an association between Ruminococcus and HIV infection that was stronger among those who didn’t use marijuana. Also, while the study suggested that the association between HIV infection and Oscillospira is independent of obesity, more further studies could investigate the potential involvement of Oscillospira in the link between HIV infection and obesity.

The study is among the latest to look at the gut microbiota, which has become known as essential organ plays a crucial role in human health and inflammatory responses and has the potential to aid immune system recovery.

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