Over at Youreka Science, medical researcher Florie Charles has a great video that introduces you to a cutting-edge hypothesis about how HIV progresses into the fatal disease AIDS. If correct, we may be able to develop treatments that would prevent AIDS from taking hold.

Based on a recent paper from UC San Francisco researchers, the hypothesis takes an approach to HIV that has growing support in the scientific community. It explores how all the bacteria that live in our gut โ€” called the microbiome โ€” are affected by HIV infections. When people are infected by HIV, we also see a deterioration of the lining of their intestines. It's basically like somebody has broken the fence between all those gut bacteria and the rest of the body. While bacteria are helpful in our intestines, they can wreck havoc on other parts of our bodies โ€” and that's what seems to happen with advanced HIV. Bacteria from the gut cause body-wide inflammation, which in turn compromises the immune system and can lead to AIDS.


The question is, what is it about HIV that causes the gut lining to degrade?

To answer, the researchers decided to compare the gut microbiome in HIV positive patients with those of HIV negative people, to see whether there was any difference between them. There was a huge difference โ€” HIV positive patients had very different bacteria, including a huge number of bacteria associated with disease. Interestingly, the researchers also analyzed a person who had had HIV for over two decades without developing AIDS. That person's gut bacteria looked like those of an HIV negative person. So perhaps HIV affects the bacteria in our intestines, and maintaining a healthy gut ecosystem can prevent the condition from turning into AIDS?

That, as they say in science, will have to be the subject of another study.

Check out the video โ€” Charles does an amazing job explaining this complicated research. And you can watch more of her videos on Youreka Science.