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Probiotics may ease gut problems in people with HIV/AIDS

By Stephen Daniells , 04-Feb-2008

Probiotic supplements may ease the suffering from diarrhoea and nausea amongst people with HIV and AIDS, suggests a joint study by African and Canadian researchers.

The occurrence of diarrhoea was stopped by taking the gut-friendly bacteria among 24 people with HIV/AIDS in the sub-Saharan region of Africa, a population where many suffer from debilitating effects of diarrhoea, and only a few have access to antiretroviral therapy, reports the new study.

"This is the first study to show the benefits of probiotic yogurt on quality of life of women in Nigeria with HIV/AIDS, and suggests that perhaps a simple fermented food can provide some relief in the management of the AIDS epidemic in Africa," wrote lead author Kingsley Anukam in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

The researchers, from the University of Benin, Benson Idahosa University, and the Canadian Research and Development Centre for Probiotics at the University of Western Ontario, recruited 24 women with HIV/AIDS aged between 18 and 44 and with clinical signs of moderate diarrhoea, and assigned them to receive a normal or probiotic yoghurt (100 mL) for 15 days.

"Given the track record of probiotics to alleviate diarrhoea, conventional yogurt fermented with Lactobacillus delbruekii var bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus was supplemented with probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and L. reuteri RC-14," explained the researchers.

The women were not receiving antiretroviral therapy or dietary supplements, and the average CD4 T-lymphocyte count (the immune system cells that the virus attacks) was over 200.

At the end of intervention period, Anukam and co-workers report that the occurrence of diarrhoea, flatulence, and nausea was resolved in all 12 subjects receiving the probiotic yoghurt, compared to only two out of the 12 in the normal (control) yoghurt.

Moreover, the average CD4 count remained the same in 92 per cent (11 out of 12 people) of the subjects in the probiotic group, while the level only remained the same in 25 per cent (three out of 12 people) receiving the control yoghurt.

White blood cells counts of the probiotic-supplemented group were 5.8 billion cells per litre at the start, and 6.0 billion cells per litre after 15 days. The level decreased slightly to 5.4 billion cells per litre 15 days after the supplementation period stopped.

The study, although small and short, suggests probiotics could play a role in improving the quality of life of people with HIV/AIDS, particularly in areas where diarrhoea is a debilitating condition.

A report published by the World Health Organisation in November 2005 showed that the number of people living with HIV was at its highest ever: 40.3 million. More than 3 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2005, with more than 500,000 of these children.

Previously, researchers have reported that probiotic supplements (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG) may provide added protection against gastro-intestinal infection and diarrhoea in infants. The study, published in the open access journal BMC Microbiology, was conducted in animals and showed that 59 per cent of animal subjects did not develop rotaviral diarrhoea when the probiotic was administered before infection with rotavirus.

Source: Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology
Publihsed online ahead of print, January 2008, doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e31802c7465
"Yogurt Containing Probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and L. reuteri RC-14 Helps Resolve Moderate Diarrhea and Increases CD4 Count in HIV/AIDS Patients"
Authors: Kingsley C. Anukam, E.O. Osazuwa, H.B. Osadolor, A.W. Bruce, G. Reid

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