Research Project: Probiotics  to improve gut health and immune function in people living with HIV

Postdoc Year(s): 2014-2016

Dr. Connie Kim is a PhD fellow from the University of Toronto with a focus on improving the long-term  care of people living with HIV. As Dr. Kim explains, “the advent of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) has dramatically reduced mortality and serious non-AIDS conditions in people with HIV…however they still have greater adverse health outcomes than their-age matched peers.” Her particular project as a CTN Postdoc focuses on the use of probiotics to improve gut health and immune function of people living with HIV.

“My doctoral work demonstrated that HIV significantly damages the gut mucosal barrier and reduces the number and function of key immune T cells…this damage results in the leaking of bacteria into the bloodstream, and in turn causes harmful effects.” This is especially important considering that recent studies have shown that the composition of the gut microbiota  can drastically impact human health.

Dr. Kim hopes that the addition of probiotics to ART for people living with HIV will accelerate gut immune function and reduce inflammation, helping bridge the health outcomes gap between HIV positive and HIV negative individuals of the same age. 

Ms. Kim just recently defended her PhD on the impact of HIV on gut mucosal immunology in April of 2014. She received her Masters of Science in 2008 in the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph.