by Alex Schoenfeld
A recent study has found that individuals who test positive for HIV may suffer from premature aging of the brain, either due to the infection itself or the treatment used to control it.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine used magnetic resonance imaging scanners to study the brain of 26 patients with HIV and 25 uninfected subjects. They found that brain blood flow values were considerably reduced in HIV patients compared to control respondents.
The cognitive function of subjects infected with the virus was equivalent to readings seen in uninfected individuals who were 15 to 20 years older.
“Brain blood flow levels decline naturally as we age, but HIV, the medications we use to control it or some combination of the two appear to be accelerating this process independent of aging,” said lead author Beau Ances.
Researchers discovered that declining brain function was perceptible in young, newly infected patients as well as older individuals who have been dealing with the virus for some time. Previous studies related to the long-term health of HIV patients have indicated that the virus adversely affects the liver, heart, kidneys and endocrine system.