Among people living with HIV (PLWH), heavy drinking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death. Data suggest that alcohol-associated gut dysbiosis partially drives this risk. Whether interventions targeting alcohol-associated gut dysbiosis among PLWH improve dysbiosis, lower levels of microbial translocation, inflammation, and harmful metabolites (e.g., trimethylamine N-oxide [TMAO)]) is unknown. Our hypothesis for this P01 application is that among PLWH, a probiotic can mitigate or reduce alcohol associated gut dysbiosis and lower levels of microbial translocation, inflammation, and improve metabolite profiles (Project 1); and that harmful levels of these metabolites will be associated with higher CVD and death risk (Project 2).
Our team, with expertise in alcohol, HIV, gut microbiome, and biomarker research has conducted two NIAAA funded trials, a metabolite study, and a gut microbiome study among Russian PLWH who are heavy drinkers. Data from these studies show that among PLWH: (1) heavy drinking is associated with incident CVD, death and gut dysbiosis (characterized by a reduction in butyrate producing bacteria); and (2) this gut dysbiosis is associated with inflammation, altered bile acids, and high TMAO levels.
Given these data and reports from pilot studies showing that probiotics are safe, may improve gut dysbiosis and reduce inflammation among PLWH, we propose an RCT among 250 PLWH with heavy alcohol consumption who are on antiretroviral therapy and have CD4+ counts≥350 cells/mm3 to compare the effects of a probiotic tailored to alcohol associated gut dysbiosis vs. placebo to: (1) improve GI dysbiosis; (2) reduce plasma metabolite (e.g., TMAO) and biomarker levels of microbial translocation and inflammation; and (3) lower CVD and mortality risk. All participants will receive evidenced-based counseling for alcohol use.
Our specific aims will compare the effects of a tailored probiotic vs. placebo at 6 months on (Aim 1) dysbiosis (fecal Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes (F/B) ratio, primary study outcome; fecal Lachnospiraceae-family of butyrate producers) and plasma metabolites (plasma butyrate, deoxycholic acid:cholic acid ratio, and TMAO) (Aim 2) biomarkers of inflammation (plasma, IL-6, D-dimer, sCD14), microbial translocation [Lipopolysaccharide binding protein], (Aim 3) cardiovascular risk (Reynolds risk score), mortality risk (VACS index); (Aim 4 exploratory) alcohol consumption (% heavy drinking days in past month) and HIV disease progression (CD4 cell count).
We hypothesize that as compared with placebo, the probiotic arm will have significantly: (1) higher F/B ratio and levels of fecal Lachnospiraceae, plasma butyrate, deoxycholic acid: cholic acid ratio and lower levels of TMAO; (2) lower plasma biomarker levels of microbial translocation and inflammation; (3) lower Reynolds risk score and VACS index; (4) lower % heavy drinking days in the past month and higher CD4 cell counts. The findings from this RCT, Microbiome, mETabolites, and Alcohol in HIV to reduce CVD (META HIV CVD RCT), will inform probiotics' role as standard adjunctive therapy complementing alcohol interventions among PLWH who are heavy drinkers.