A study from South Africa has investigated the effects of L-methionine supplements for HIV or immune-compromised patients, with positive results.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a major global public health issue. Over 25 million people have died from HIV in the past 30 years, and more people are being diagnosed every day. According to the World Health Organization, there were about 34 million people living with HIV in 2011. HIV, in a matter of a decade, can develop into AIDS, which is the most advanced form of HIV.
HIV causes the immune system to fail, which means life-threatening infections and cancers can develop. The virus affects T cells in the immune system, leading to declines in the amounts of these vital cells. HIV specifically affects CD4 T cells, white blood cells which are an essential part of the immune system. If untreated, HIV causes the amount of CD4 cells to drop to a critically low level. Immunity is lost.
There’s no cure for HIV, but the virus can be treated with antiretroviral drugs. These are widely available in North America, but in Africa, where most of the new cases are diagnosed, fewer people have access. Research into boosting the immune system, therefore, is a growing field.
R Van Brummelen and D du Toit, researchers with the Tshwane University of Technology, Gezina, South Africa, developed a clinical study to test L-L-methionine supplements. Would the amino acid improve the immune system of HIV infected patients?
L-methionine, one of the sulfur-containing amino acids, is important for many bodily functions. It converts to L-cysteine in the body, when it becomes a vital antioxidant, scavenging damaging free radicals and boosting the immune system.
L-methionine tested as immune supportive supplement
The researchers designed a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. HIV patients were given either L-methionine supplements, or a placebo. Treatments continued for six months, then the patients were tested.
Results were statistically significant. In the L-methionine supplement group, CD4 counts showed a decreased level of decline, meaning the HIV was not destroying as many of these crucial cells in the immune system.
Additionally, there were no serious side effects from the treatment.
The researchers concluded that L-methionine supports the immune system, and can play a role in the treatment of immune-compromised patients.