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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia Finds Vitamin D Deficiency may Limit Immune Recovery in HIV-positive Adults

A University of Georgia researcher has found that low levels of vitamin D may limit the effectiveness of HIV treatment in adults.

Description: Amara Ezeamama Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Amara Ezeamama teaches in her epidemiology class inside a classroom in Russell Hall on the Health Sciences Campus. Date of Photo: 9/9/2014 Credit: Andrew Davis Tucker, University of Georgia Photographic Services File: 31951-054 The University of Georgia owns the rights to this image or has permission to redistribute this image. Permission to use this image is granted for internal UGA publications and promotions and for a one-time use for news purposes. Separate permission and payment of a fee is required to use any image for any other purpose, including but not limited to, commercial, advertising or illustrative purposes. Unauthorized use of any of these copyrighted photographs is unlawful and may subject the user to civil and criminal penalties. Possession of this image signifies agreement to all the terms described above.
[Photo: Dr. Amara Ezeamama]

Those with human immunodeficiency virus — commonly known as HIV — often struggle with declining health because their immune systems can’t effectively respond to common pathogens. Their immune statuses, usually measured by CD4+T cells, normally improve when given HIV treatment.

“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,” said study co-author Amara Ezeamama, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the College of Public Health.

“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.”

Specifically, Ezeamama found that vitamin D helped the adults’ CD4+T cells recover more quickly. CD4+T cells are a type of T cell that helps the immune system fight off pathogens. For HIV-positive adults, CD4+T cells are critical because of their weakened immune systems.

Ezeamama found that participants with sufficient levels of vitamin D recovered more of their immune function — on average 65 CD4+T cells more — than those with vitamin D deficiency. The benefit of vitamin D sufficiency seemed greater for younger and underweight HIV-positive adults.

The findings were published recently in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

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