Why do some HIV patients who experience great success from treatments still die younger than the average life expectancy? The reason may lie in the intestines. The bacteria that exists in the gut can increase inflammation that was originally related to the body’s fight against HIV.

Antiretroviral drugs can now help HIV patients to keep from having their immune system completely compromised, thus leading to a normal life span. But whether a person has HIV or not, inflammation can lead to serious health conditions such as heart problems, weight issues and mental deterioration.

HIV causes this sort of inflammation in individuals regardless of whether or not they receive treatment for the condition throughout their entire life. What lets HIV hang around in a patient even when treatment is successful? While this has been a subject of longtime research, the area of study is moving to the intestinal tract.

The idea for the research came from the concept that someone with HIV may have altered gut flora in some way as a result of the condition. The study involved considering samples from those who were infected with the disease but were not undergoing treatment, others who were receiving various forms of treatment and, finally, individuals without the disease as a control group.

What was the verdict? The flora found within the gut of an HIV patient is significantly different from that of a person who does not have the disease. More of the bacteria found in the intestines of the HIV patients was harmful bacteria that can create dangerous inflammation.

Researchers do not yet have a way to restore balance to the gut that has undergone such a drastic change, but more research is underway. Prospects are hopeful that treating this gut condition along with HIV will be the key to keeping HIV patients from suffering from a premature loss of life. It is also hoped that such advancements may allow for treatments that do not need to continue for someone’s entire life in order to hold the disease at bay.