Background: Recent studies demonstrated higher prevalence rates of Tropheryma whipplei (T. whipplei) in HIV positive than in HIV negative subjects. However, associations with the immune status in HIV positive participants were conflicting.
Methods: For this cross-sectional study, stool samples of 906 HIV positive and 98 HIV negative individuals in Ghana were tested for T. whipplei. Additionally, sociodemographic parameters, clinical symptoms, medical drug intake, and laboratory parameters were assessed.
Results: The prevalence of T. whipplei was 5.85% in HIV positive and 2.04% in HIV negative participants. Within the group of HIV positive participants, the prevalence reached 7.18% in patients without co-trimoxazole prophylaxis, 10.26% in subjects with ART intake, and 12.31% in obese participants. Frequencies of clinical symptoms were not found to be higher in HIV positive T. whipplei carriers compared to T. whipplei negative participants. Markers of immune activation were lower in patients colonized with T. whipplei. Multivariate regression models demonstrated an independent relationship of a high CD4+ T cell count, a low HIV-1 viral load, and an obese body weight with the presence of T. whipplei.
Conclusions: Among HIV positive individuals, T. whipplei colonization was associated with a better immune status but not with clinical consequences. Our data suggest that the withdrawal of co-trimoxazole chemoprophylaxis among people living with HIV on stable cART regimen may inadvertently increase the propensity towards colonization with T. whipplei.
Keywords: Africa; Sub-Sahara; Whipple’s disease; enteric infections; epidemiology.