Increased selenium intake may protect HIV positive patients from mycobacterial disease

Dietary selenium supplementation in patients with HIV appears to lower their risk of mycobacterial disease, Florida researchers have discovered.

In a study of 259 HIV-infected drug users assigned to receive placebo or selenium supplements 200 µg/day, Dr. Gail Shor-Posner and colleagues, of the University of Miami School of Medicine, identified 12 subjects who developed infections of Mycobacterium tuberculosis or atypical mycobacterial species during a two year follow up. They were compared with 32 matched controls.

All subjects had plasma selenium levels considered to be normal, but those with levels of 135 µg/L or less were 13 times more likely to develop mycobacterial disease, the investigators report in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes for February 1. Furthermore, receiving placebo rather than selenium supplements doubled the risk.

Dr. Shor-Posner’s group notes that selenium is recognized as a suppressor of tumour necrosis factor-alpha and an aid in maintaining T cell function. The researchers also suggest that selenium modulates viral expression and acts as an antioxidant. Thus, “higher than normal levels of selenium may be necessary to maintain a functional immune system in HIV-infected subjects,” they maintain.


J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2002; 29:169-173.

Source: Reuters Health

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