40-Year-Old Stool Samples Offer Major Insights

40-Year-Old Stool Samples Offer Major Insights

(TargetLiberty.org) – Doctors believe preserved samples from the early 1980s could lead to major breakthroughs in treating disease. The key? Microbes living in our guts.

Early this month, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh announced they had analyzed hundreds of stool and blood samples collected from gay men in the early 1980s. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) collected the samples from 265 volunteers in 1984, and at the start of the study, none of them were HIV-positive. A year later, 109 of them had been infected with HIV – and, now, researchers are learning from the bacteria that lived in those men’s digestive systems.

The Pittsburgh team found those who tested HIV positive had higher levels of Prevotella stercorea, a bacteria that causes inflammation. They believe this inflammation weakened the men’s immune systems, made them more vulnerable to the virus and allowed the disease to progress to symptomatic AIDS.

HIV infection is now controlled with antiretroviral drugs that can prevent it from progressing to AIDS, so patients can lead normal lives, but the researchers say their findings could make a huge difference. Team member Lona Sandon of the University of Texas explained “the gut is one of the primary natural immunity defense systems,” and said her own research shows disrupting the bacteria living there could weaken our immunity to disease.

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