Microorganisms 2017 09 215(4) pii 10.3390/microorganisms5040064
HIV infection and alcohol use disorder are associated with deficits in neurocognitive function. Emerging evidence points to pro-inflammatory perturbations of the gut-brain axis as potentially contributing to neurocognitive impairment in the context of HIV and chronic heavy alcohol use. This study examined whether plasma markers of microbial translocation (LPS) from the gastrointestinal tract and related immune activation (sCD14, EndoCAb) were associated with neurocognition in 21 men living with HIV who were virally suppressed on antiretroviral therapy. All participants met federal criteria for heavy drinking and were enrolled in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a brief alcohol intervention. This secondary analysis utilized blood samples and cognitive scores (learning, memory, executive function, verbal fluency, and processing speed) obtained at baseline and three-month follow-up of the RCT. In generalized estimating equation models, LPS, sCD14, and EndoCAb individually were significant predictors of processing speed. In a model with all biomarkers, higher LPS and sCD14 both remained significant predictors of lower processing speed. These preliminary findings suggest that inflammation stemming from HIV and/or alcohol could have negative effects on the gut-brain axis, manifested as diminished processing speed. Associations of microbial translocation and immune activation with processing speed in heavy-drinking PLWH warrant further investigation in larger-scale studies.