Not a Cure for HIV/AIDS, but Probiotics might Help with Symptoms

Although the world still hasn’t found a cure for HIV/AIDS, some doctors and scientists have discovered clever ways to improve life quality for patients with this debilitating disease. In particular, probiotics have been shown to help control diarrhea and increase CD4 count in immunocompromised patients. CD4 cells are one way doctors and researchers can determine an HIV/AIDS patient’s condition, because the CD4 cell count decreases as the disease progresses.

As indicated by a small study in Africa, probiotics might help HIV/AIDS patient cope with the disease.

As indicated by a small study in Africa, probiotics might help HIV/AIDS patient cope with the disease.

HIV/AIDS is particularly insidious in locations where the population doesn’t have access to antiretroviral therapy—the meds many HIV/AIDS patients benefit from. Without treatment through medications, AIDS patients often experience life-altering bouts of diarrhea, flatulence and nausea. Resulting dehydration can further degenerate a patient’s health.

Africa Probiotics Study Gives HIV/AIDS Patients Hope
In 2008, based on probiotics’ proven contribution to controlling diarrhea, researchers conducted a small study in Africa to see if probiotics would help AIDS patients there cope with the disease.

According to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in March 2008, the results were positive enough to provide some hope. Here’s a link to the abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18223503.

In this study, 24 female HIV/AIDS patients from the ages of 18 to 44 were given either plain yogurt or yogurt supplemented with probiotics for 15 days. Before the study, the researchers evaluated each patient’s hematologic profiles, CD4 cell counts and quality of life. Patients were reevaluated after 15 and 30 days.

Although the study showed no significant alteration in the patients’ hematologic profiles, results were positive for CD4 cell counts and “quality of life,” including the alleviation of diarrhea and other symptoms.

Eleven of the 12 patients who were treated with probiotics showed either stable or increased CD4 cell counts after the trial. This compared with positive results for only three of the 12 patients who did not receive probiotics in the yogurt they consumed.

Perhaps most encouraging is the fact that all 12 of the probiotic-treated patients reported resolution of diarrhea, flatulence and nausea after the study. Only two of those receiving non-probiotic yogurt experienced improved symptoms.

It’s important to remember this is only one study of a very small group in a very specific geographic location, using only one combination of fermented probiotics. In addition, it’s possible the positive results could be in part attributed to the fact that the patients were already health compromised because of their living conditions. Although there have been other studies with positive indications for probiotics as a useful mechanism in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, the jury is still out on probiotics’ ability to treat and/or prevent this or any disease.

Could Probiotics be a Factor in Disease Prevention?
On the other hand, with a disease that has befuddled the medical community for as many years as HIV/AIDS has, every positive advancement is extremely valuable. This small study in Africa was one of the first indications that probiotics could be of some assistance for AIDS patients.

This study is a great example of the creative thinking it takes to find a cure for a disease. We owe eradication of many other diseases to medical professionals who were willing to explore such possibilities.

Even if probiotics prove to be only a tool to help alleviate symptoms, and not an ingredient of any cure, as a probiotics company we are excited to offer a product that could be on the cutting edge of medical explorations and advancements like this.

Where might probiotics take us next?