To evaluate the long term effect of yogurt supplemented with Lactobacillus rhamnosus Fiti on the immune function (CD4 count) of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Gastrointestinal infections and the leakage of microbial products from the gut have a profound impact on the deterioration of the immune system among people living with HIV/AIDS.
Among persons not infected with the virus, probiotics can prevent gastrointestinal infections and restore an effective gut barrier, suggesting they might have a beneficial effect on the immune function of people living with HIV/AIDS.
We carried out an observational retrospective study over a period of 3 years, with longitudinal comparison of the CD4 count within participants (n=68) before and during probiotic yogurt consumption, and compared with a control group of participants not consuming the yogurt (n=82).
Among the yogurt consumers before use and the nonconsumers, an average increase in CD4 count was seen of 0.13 cells/μL/day (95% CI; 0.07-0.20, P=<0.001).
After commencing consumption, yogurt consumers experienced an additional increase of 0.28 cells/μL/day (95% CI; 0.10-0.46, P=0.003).
When adjusting for length of time using antiretroviral medication, the additional increase explained by yogurt consumption remained 0.17 cells/μL/day (95% CI; 0.01-0.34, P=0.04).
Treatment with antiretroviral medication was associated with an increase of 0.27 cells/μL/day (95% CI; 0.17-0.38, P=<0.001).
The introduction of probiotic yogurt, made by local women in a low-income community in Tanzania, was significantly associated with an increase in CD4 count among consumers living with HIV.
Professor Marco Ruggiero tells us that 2 years later, the same research group showed that such an effect on HIV/AIDS patients was not limited to those living in impoverished countries and therefore thought to be suffering from malnutrition, but they observed similar results in Canadian patients as well
(Gut Microbes. 2012 Sep–Oct;3:414–419).
He also tells us that the same research group observed that one African patient in the probiotic group experienced what they refer to as seronegativization; that is, while consuming the probiotics, she tested HIV negative after having been confirmed HIV positive before being assigned to the probiotic group. There were no patients in the placebo group that experienced a similar occurrence.
(Gut Microbes. 2011;2:80–85).