April 29, 2016
This week, a study reports the first diagnosed case of Alzheimer's disease in a person living with HIV, shedding some light on what we thought we knew about dementia and aging with HIV. Meanwhile, another study finds a correlation between zinc deficiency and increased inflammation among people living with HIV. To beat HIV, you have to follow the science!
Researchers are reporting that a 71-year-old man is the first HIV-positive individual diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (AD), according to a study published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring. The case reveals a little more about the complexities of aging with HIV, as we reach a point where more individuals with HIV are growing older.
"This patient may be a sentinel case that disputes what we thought we knew about dementia in HIV-positive individuals," said lead author Raymond Scott Turner, M.D., Ph.D., according to the study press release.
It had been previously thought that HIV-related inflammation would prevent amyloid clumps (brain plaque) from forming and developing Alzheimer's disease.
But now Turner suggests that perhaps those who are aging with HIV and dementia may be misdiagnosed with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND), when they're actually developing Alzheimer's disease.
"While it may be challenging to diagnose the cause of dementia in an HIV-positive patient, the diagnosis matters because HAND and AD are treated differently," Turner said, according to the study press release.
"For Alzheimer's disease, we now have four FDA-approved drugs and more effective treatments are on the way. For HAND, we prescribe antiretroviral drugs that have a better chance of penetrating the brain. So getting a correct diagnosis is important, and a critical first step in advancing the field."
Having a zinc deficiency may be adding to chronic inflammation found in individuals living with HIV, according to a study published in Biological Trace Element Research.
This was the first study to investigate the association between zinc levels in the blood and inflammation among HIV-positive individuals on antiretroviral therapy. Deficiency of zinc, which is an anti-inflammatory agent, is common among people living with HIV, the authors noted in the study press release.
The researchers followed 322 individuals living with HIV and observed an inverse relationship between zinc levels and C-reactive protein levels, a biomarker associated with inflammation. They found that as zinc levels went up, C-reactive protein levels decreased significantly, among men and women in all age groups.
The next steps will be to study whether zinc supplements can help reduce inflammation.
Warren Tong is the senior science editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.
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