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Selenium Supplements May Slow Progression of HIV: Report

University of Miami researchers report that supplements of the mineral selenium appear to reduce or slow the progression of HIV. //

Deficiencies in selenium have been noted in HIV-positive patients, and evidence suggests that supplements of the nutrient can improve immune system function, the researchers report in the Jan. 22 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Those individuals who were treated with selenium displayed no further progression of HIV disease, whereas those who were on placebo evidenced a continued increase in HIV viral load," said lead researcher and professor of psychology Barry E. Hurwitz.

Another expert said the importance of the findings should not be overstated, however.

"That a cheap micronutrient might help blunt the short-term progression of HIV infection is wonderful news and can offer an intervention for persons in care settings who are not yet eligible for, or do not yet have access to, potent antiretroviral therapies," said Dr. Sten H. Vermund, the Amos Christie Chair and director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

However, he stressed "by no means is selenium a treatment alternative, as the authors state, since the magnitude of benefit pales in comparison to that of antiretrovirals." Vermund was not involved in the study.

In the study, Hurwitz and colleagues randomly assigned 262 patients infected with HIV to 200 micrograms of selenium per day or placebo. Over the first nine months of the trial, the researchers monitored the patients' CD4 immune T-cell count (a measure of immune system health) and HIV viral load (the number of copies of the HIV virus in the blood).

They found that, among the 174 patients who completed the trial, those receiving the selenium supplement had reductions in their HIV viral load and increases in their CD4 count compared with those taking placebo. Among those taking placebo
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