New findings suggest that a vitamin D deficiency could impair the immune recovery in HIV-positive adults. The findings come from the University of Georgia. Individuals with HIV often have declining health as their immune systems cannot fight off infection or effectively respond to pathogens.
Study co-author Amara Ezeamama said, “Because of the immune-destroying effects of HIV, infection usually results in relatively quick death without treatment. The magic of antiretroviral therapy, the name for drugs to treat HIV, lies in its ability to restore immune function. With antiretroviral drugs, people with HIV are beginning to live longer lives. Our goal was to understand whether vitamin D deficiency limits the amount of immune recovery benefit for persons on HIV treatment.”
An 18-month study was conducted that revealed the immune status of 398 HIV-positive adults. Immune status was measured at zero, three, six, 12 and 18 months. The researchers related the rise in immune function to whether or not the individual had normal or low levels of vitamin D.
Researchers found that vitamin D helped CD4+T cells recover more quickly. CD4+T cells are what help the immune system fight off infection. CD4+T cells are crucial for those with HIV because they help the immune system.
Ezeamama explained, “HIV destroys the capacity of the body to mount effective response to pathogens. Given different vitamin D levels, HIV-positive adults recovered at different rates. We found a relationship between vitamin D and CD4+T cells.”
She continued: “As researchers, we want to know what we can do to help. Vitamin D is relatively cheap. If we intervene with it, it could give individual HIV-infected persons a modest immune recovery bump that will likely translate to big public health impact.”
Further studies will include how vitamin D can help long-term recovery in HIV-positive patients.
Ezeamama concluded by saying, “We are now in an era of hope for persons with HIV. We know that HIV treatment works, and now people can live for several decades with HIV. We can further delay the progress of the disease and maintain survivors on a higher quality of life if we understand the factors that limit the effectiveness of HIV treatment.”
The findings were published in Clinical Nutrition.