Impact of antiretroviral drugs on the microbiome: unknown answers to important questions

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Purpose of review

Little is known on how different antiretroviral (ARV) drugs affect the gut microbiome in HIV infection; and conflicting data exists on the effect of ARV drugs on residual inflammation/immune activation and microbial translocation.

Recent findings

Gut microbiome involvement in the transmission and pathogenesis of HIV infection is increasingly being recognized. Various studies have shown that antiretroviral therapy (ART) is unable to restore gut health despite effective suppression of plasma HIV viremia. Indeed, the resolution of residual inflammation and gut microbial translocation is partial under ART. Very recent studies have provided new evidence that ARV combinations can differentially affect the gut microbiome, immune activation and microbial translocation. Furthermore, a recent article uncovered a link between drug metabolism and specific microbial species indicating that microbes can directly metabolically degrade ARV drugs when administered topically.


There are still many unanswered questions regarding ARVs and the gut microbiome. It is, therefore, critical for researchers to address the effect of distinct ARV drugs on the microbiome and vice versa: the effects of the microbiome on ARV drug metabolism, and speculate about possible therapeutic avenues.

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