Research ArticleHIV

Dysbiosis of the Gut Microbiota Is Associated with HIV Disease Progression and Tryptophan Catabolism

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Science Translational Medicine  10 Jul 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 193, pp. 193ra91
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006438

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Gut Reaction to HIV

Despite the value placed on individuality in the western world, no human is an island. Indeed, every person carries trillions of microorganisms in their intestine, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the composition and interaction of these microorganisms can directly affect human health. Vujkovic-Cvijin et al. now demonstrate that this is the case for individuals infected with HIV, even those where viral load is controlled by therapy.

The authors screened the intestinal microbiome for microbial drivers of HIV-associated immunopathology. They found that a dysbiotic mucosal microbial community associated with mucosal immune disruption, T cell activation, and chronic inflammation in HIV-infected subjects, even in patients controlled with antiviral therapy. They then looked further into the mechanism of this association and found that the extent of dysbiosis correlated with tryptophan catabolism and plasma concentrations of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), two established markers of disease progression. Indeed, gut-resident bacteria with the capacity to metabolize tryptophan were found to be enriched in HIV-infected subjects. These data link gut-resident microbial populations with the immunopathogenesis of HIV and suggest that modulating this community could provide a new therapeutic strategy for managing HIV disease progression.