The link between HIV infection and the progression of other conditions is still a bit of a mystery. This is certainly the case when it comes to the body’s inability to keep in check the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, while in the presence of HIV. However, new insight into how the connection between the two conditions work, and how the immune system comes into play, has recently been published. This information could lead to further understanding of how to best treat the two conditions and support important immune system functions.

A large percentage of the population has the bacterium that develops into tuberculosis in their system. The immune system is generally quite adept at keeping the pathogen under control. For those who have this bacterium and are also infected with HIV, the tendency is to eventually develop tuberculosis as the HIV progresses. It was generally assumed that a weakened immune system, brought about by HIV infection, was the reason behind tuberculosis development in infected patients. This is not necessarily the case.

How HIV Progression Affects Tuberculosis in the Body

The published information painstakingly compared what was happening during each stage of HIV infection—with the effect on the immune system. What researchers found was that in the early stages of HIV infection, a function of the immune system diminishes. That component, called IL-10, is used to reduce inflammation. As HIV progresses, interferon response is noted. This is an antiviral immune response, but it dampens defense against tuberculosis.

The imbalance of immune support when the two infections are both present seems to be what accounts for the progression into tuberculosis. It should also be noted that other dangerous conditions can present suddenly in such an environment. Regulating the imbalance is what researchers are hoping to achieve as they continue to examine their findings. If successful, they will be able to modify the responses of the immune system to effectively combat both pathogens. This is important research as it relates to helping HIV-positive individuals to deal with secondary diseases as HIV progresses.