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Brain Behav. 2017 Jul 16;7(8):e00756. doi: 10.1002/brb3.756. eCollection 2017 Aug.

A pilot study on the effects of probiotic supplementation on neuropsychological performance and microRNA-29a-c levels in antiretroviral-treated HIV-1-infected patients.

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Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases Sapienza University of Rome Rome Italy.
Pasteur Institute-Cenci Bolognetti Foundation Rome Italy.
Department of Neurology Sapienza University of Rome Italy.
Department of Molecular Medicine Laboratory of Virology Sapienza University of Rome Italy.
Department of Clinical Medicine Sapienza University of Rome Italy.



The gut microbiota is involved in the regulation of cognition, mood, anxiety, and pain, and can impact cognitive functions by producing neuroactive substances or releasing bacterial by-products and metabolites. No information is available on the effects of a probiotic supplementation on brain function of HIV+ subjects. In light of the above considerations, we performed a pilot study in cART-treated HIV-1-positive patients with long-term virologic suppression. The aims were to analyze the effect of high-concentration multistrain probiotic supplementation (Vivomixx®; Visbiome®) on several neurocognitive abilities and to evaluate the safety of this supplementation.


To address those issues, neurocognitive performances were explored by administering neuropsychological tests; moreover, miRNA-29a-c levels were measured in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to confirm the persistent undetectable levels of HIV-RNA in the central nervous system after probiotic supplementation.


Our results show that the Rey auditory verbal learning test (RAVLT) (immediate and delayed recall), Rey-Osterrieth complex figure test (ROCF) (copy immediate and delayed recall), phonological verbal fluency (PVF) test, Toronto alexithymia scale-20 (Tas-20), State-trait anxiety inventory Y-2 (STAY Y-2), and time and weight estimation test (STEP) scores improved significantly during the study. Moreover, we found unchanged levels, associated to high degree of individual variability, in miRNA-29 levels in CSF collected before and after probiotic supplementation.


In conclusion, we observed that HIV patients treated with 6 months of this probiotic supplementation appear to have an improvement in some neurocognitive functions; moreover, this approach is safe and did not modify significantly the levels of miRNA in CSF. Further studies are needed to better understand the contribution of the probiotics in modulating gut-brain-axis in HIV patients.


HIV; miRNA; miRNA‐29; neuropsychological performance; probiotics

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