All posts in HIV/AIDS

Can diet help with HIV?

On being asked about why she had decided to write a review, Dr Rayman replied: “There are three main reasons. First, to provide GPs and healthcare professionals with reliable information which could be used in treating patients and setting up healthcare programmes. Second, to raise concern that the levels of selenium are low in the UK and parts of Europe.

Third, to call for further research to clarify the optimal nutritional level with respect to selenium.” Dr Rayman explained that if, for example, there was further research to examine whether selenium as a nutrient could be helpful in slowing the progression of HIV to Aids, then it might provide a low cost solution in African countries particularly affected by HIV. The research so far had been carried out in the United States by Mariana Baum and colleagues of the University of Miami who found that HIV positive individuals have a twenty times greater chance of dying from Aids than those with adequate selenium levels. The Cancer Research Campaign is currently funding a £160,000 pilot study, which started in October 1999 led by Dr Rayman, and involves 500 people in the UK to see whether selenium can provide protection against cancer. This comes after an American study which showed encouraging health benefits for people who increased their daily intake of selenium. Dr Rayman said: “I am currently trying to raise £3.5m in funding to carry out a main UK study involving 10,000 people, when the pilot research finishes at the end of next year. It is essential to get sponsorship as scientific research is the only way to get positive proof of the health benefits of selenium. If a positive effect of selenium on cancer risk were to be established, the Government might then decide to act by adding selenium to the food supply. However, research is also needed to discover the optimal nutritional level with respect to selenium, because if people consume too much then it can become toxic”. Besides Britain, Sweden and Denmark are also taking part in the trial because of low dietary selenium. The US who are also participating in the study, have moderate selenium levels. The difference in countries' selenium levels depends on the amount of selenium present in the soil and which fertilisers are used. Finland has artificially added selenium to its fertilisers since 1984 to raise levels because of the reputed health benefit. In contrast, selenium levels in the UK have declined significantly over the last few decades – probably because we are no longer importing selenium-rich wheat from North America for use in our bread.

Alcohol Use Accelerates HIV Progression

HIV disease tends to progress at a faster rate in infected individuals who consume two or more alcoholic drinks a day, according to a new study in AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

The article, entitled “Alcohol Use Accelerates HIV Disease Progression,” clearly demonstrates that frequent alcohol use, defined as two or more drinks daily, is associated with declining CD4+ cell counts (which indicate a weakened immune system) in individuals with HIV disease who either are or are not receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Based on the results of a 30-month prospective study, the authors, Marianna Baum, Carlin Rafie, Sabrina Sales, and Adriana Campa, from Florida International University (Miami), Shenghan Lai, from Johns Hopkins University, and John Bryan Page, from University of Miami, Florida, conclude that alcohol has a direct effect on CD4 cells and that the accelerated decline in CD4+ cell counts in frequent alcohol users is not simply due to poorer adherence to ART in this population.

Another article by Natascha Ching, Karin Nielsen-Saines, Jaime Deville, Lian Wei, Eileen Garratty, and Yvonne Bryson, from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, demonstrated that children who were infected with HIV while in utero via maternal-fetal transmission, were subsequently given antiretroviral therapy, and had no detectable HIV in their blood, still produced neutralizing antibodies against HIV, suggesting that low levels of viral replication might still be occurring despite drug therapy. In the article, the authors present data to support their conclusion that the children's CD4 T-cells may contain latent HIV reservoirs that formed early in life before antiretroviral therapy was initiated.

“It is important that HIV infected individuals make informed decisions relating to alcohol consumption. This article will help to achieve that goal,” says Thomas Hope, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses and Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.