We’ve just heard about a brand new Visbiome study that is giving encouragement to patients suffering with HIV and who are on antiviral medicines.
The new research shows that Visbiome, a high concentration, multi-strain, probiotic formula has helped to reconstitute the physical and immunological integrity of the gastrointestinal lining.
With the knowledge that we have gleaned from the Human Microbiome project, we know that the gut contains literally trillions of organisms that form a complex bacterial community called the gut microbiome. An interesting fact is that we have more bacteria cells in our body than we have human cells.
One of the main functions of the digestive system is to separate these bacteria from other internal organs. This is accomplished by the single layer of epithelial cells that form a physical and immunological barrier.
The epithelial layer stops gut bacteria from getting in to the bloodstream. If this epithelial barrier breaks down, or is negatively affected in any way, it may result in circulation of pathogenic or bad bacteria throughout the body.
Unfortunately, people with HIV suffer with a compromised function of this barrier in the GI tract. This damage occurs soon after the virus is contracted. And even when HIV is treated with antiretroviral therapy, the integrity of the GI tract often remains severely compromised.
What happens when this epithelial barrier is compromised?
It can result in long-term, low grade inflammation throughout the body, as well as systemic immune activation. This results in development of a variety of HIV-related conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fracture of bones and kidney disease. 1, 2.
That’s where probiotics come in. These good bacteria have been shown to help support this barrier function by utlizing a number of mechanisms.
These include excluding damaging bacteria and also releasing bioactive compounds like butyrate. This assists in what they refer to as ‘tightening the junctions between the epithelial cells’.
In this study, Visbiome, the high potency, eight strain probiotic formula was assessed in long-term treated HIV-positive patients on ART to see to see what effect in had on the gut barrier function and also to see if it was safe to use in HIV patients.
The study took place at the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, and published in published in the Journal of Immunity, Inflammation and Disease
The clinical researcher who actively conducted the study is Dr. Giancarlo Ceccarelli M.D., Ph.D. He is also a HIV treatment specialist. He says that he believes that this is the very first time that a probiotic has been shown to clearly improve the integrity of the gastrointestinal epithelial cell wall in HIV patients.
He says, “There appear to be multiple therapeutic mechanisms at work, but the improvement in Th17 immune cells in the GI tissue was of particular interest. In the HIV population, a depletion of Th17 in the gastrointestinal tract is common and is a significant driver of the loss of intestinal barrier function.”
The good news, as well, was that there were no adverse safety-related findings associated with Visbiome.
The researchers advised against broadly translating this research to apply to any other probiotic formulas, as these clinical findings were specific to using the particular strains of the Visbiome probiotic formula dealing with an immunocompromised population.
We learned that there are 2 more large studies currently underway in the USA and Canada to continue to evaluate how Visbiome affects HIV population.
There is a multi-center study that is being conducted by the NIH funded AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), to see whether Visbione can reduce damaging systemic inflammation in HIV patients in comparison to placebo.
The outcomes of this study are expected to be released in early 2018.
1 Guaraldi G, Orlando G, Zona S, et al. Premature age-related comorbidities among HIV-infected persons compared with the general population. Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 2011; 53(11):1120–1126.
2 Marchetti G, Tincati C, Silvestri G. Microbial translocation in the pathogenesis of HIV infection and AIDS. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2013; 26(1):2–18.