We have already explained that the bacteria that inhabit the digestive tract – the gut microbiota – carry out key functions in terms of people’s health. Among these tasks, this “organ” (as described by some scientists) plays an essential role in our body’s defences.

A team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (USA) recently observed that the HIV infection significantly modifies the balance of the gut microbiota, thus weakening the immune system and contributing to the progression of the disease. The results of the study have been published by the journal Science Translational Medicine.

This study allowed the researchers to observe that the gut microbiota in HIV-infected individuals treated successfully shows a proliferation of certain potentially damaging bacteria (such as Pseudomonas, Salmonella, E. coli and Staphylococcus), which are found in considerably smaller amounts in non-infected persons. Changes in the composition and balance of the microbiota may also weaken the barrier function carried out by the gut, promoting inflammatory processes that contribute to the disease’s progression.

Experts believe that manipulating bacterial populations may be a promising way of battling against HIV. This would entail fighting the alterations in the microbiota through recolonisation.

Although many questions remain, we believe that this is very good news in terms of furthering our knowledge of HIV and how it functions. If you are as interested in this subject as we are, why not take a look at this video, which explains in a clear and accessible way the main conclusions of the study: