Background: The relationship between gut microbial community composition at the higher-taxonomic order level and local and systemic immunologic abnormalities in HIV disease may provide insight into how bacterial translocation impacts HIV disease.
Methods: Antiretroviral-naive patients with HIV underwent upper endoscopy before and 9 months after starting antiretroviral treatment. Duodenal tissue was paraffin-embedded for immunohistochemical analysis and digested for fluorescence activated cell sorting for T-cell subsets and immune activation (CD38+/HLA-DR+) enumeration. Stool samples were provided from patients and control subjects for comparison. Metagenomic microbial DNA was extracted from feces for optimized 16S ribosomal RNA gene (rDNA) real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction assays designed to quantify panbacterial loads and the relative abundances of proinflammatory Enterobacteriales order and the dominant Bacteroidales and Clostridiales orders.
Results: Samples from 10 HIV subjects before initiating and from six subjects receiving antiretroviral treatment were available for analysis. There was a trend for a greater proportion of Enterobacteriales in HIV-positive subjects compared with control subjects (P = 0.099). There were significant negative correlations between total bacterial load and duodenal CD4 and CD8 T-cell activation levels (r = -0.74, P = 0.004 and r = -0.67, P = 0.013, respectively). The proportions of Enterobacteriales and Bacteroidales were significantly correlated with duodenal CD4 T-cell depletion and peripheral CD8 T-cell activation, respectively.
Conclusions: These data represent the first report of quantitative molecular and cellular correlations between total/universal and order-level gut bacterial populations and gastrointestinal-associated lymphoid tissue levels of immune activation in HIV-infected subjects. The correlations between lower overall 16S rDNA levels and tissue immune activation suggest that the gut microbiome may contribute to immune activation and influence HIV progression.