Targeting the Gut Microbiota of Vertically HIV-Infected Children to Decrease Inflammation and Immunoactivation: A Pilot Clinical Trial

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Aims: Children with HIV exhibit chronic inflammation and immune dysfunction despite antiretroviral therapy (ART). Strategies targeting persistent inflammation are needed to improve health in people living with HIV. The gut microbiota likely interacts with the immune system, but the clinical implications of modulating the dysbiosis by nutritional supplementation are unclear. Methods: Pilot, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial in which 24 HIV-infected on ART were randomized to supplementation with a daily mixture of symbiotics, omega-3/6 fatty acids and amino acids, or placebo four weeks, in combination with ART. We analyzed inflammatory markers and T-cell activation changes and their correlations with shifts in fecal microbiota. Results: Twenty-four HIV-infected children were recruited and randomized to receive a symbiotic nutritional supplement or placebo. Mean age was 12 ± 3.9 years, 62.5% were female. All were on ART and had HIV RNA < 50/mL. We did not detect changes in inflammatory (IL-6, IL-7, IP-10), microbial translocation (sCD14), mucosal integrity markers (IFABP, zonulin) or the kynurenine to tryptophan ratio, or changes in markers of the adaptive immune response in relation to the intervention. However, we found correlations between several key bacteria and the assessed inflammatory and immunological parameters, supporting a role of the microbiota in immune modulation in children with HIV. Conclusions: In this exploratory study, a four-week nutritional supplementation had no significant effects in terms of decreasing inflammation, microbial translocation, or T-cell activation in HIV-infected children. However, the correlations found support the interaction between gut microbiota and the immune system.