It has been known for many years that HIV affects many of the body’s functions. It affects the immune system most severely but it can also affect other parts of the body such as the distribution of body fat, both subcutaneous and visceral fat deposits are affected. A recent study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health has found that the HIV virus can also have an effect on the blood brain barrier. The blood brain barrier made of tight conjunctions between endothelial cells in the central nervous system vessels and is maintained by the ends of a type of cell called an astrocyte. These astrocytes make up almost half of the brain’s mass and are abundant throughout the rest of the central nervous system too.Check it out on chance of getting hiv
The function of the blood brain barrier is to prevent potentially harmful substances form passing from the blood stream into the cerebro-spinal fluid which surrounds and feeds the brain. The molecules that are meant to be kept away from the brain include bacteria and viruses. Since HIV generally affects the immune system the incidence of astrocyte infection is low. However, sufficient incidents have been recorded to establish that it does occur. The effects of this have not yet been well studied. The HIV virus causes the blood brain barrier to become compromised. It becomes more permeable as the astrocytes do not function as they normally would and develop end feet that are malformed and less efficient and allow larger molecules through the barrier. This has been seen to lead to impaired cognitive functioning as a result of the infected astrocytes causing the death of cells in their immediate vicinity however the infected astrocytes do not die as a result of the viral infection.
The increased permeability of the blood brain barrier also increases the risk of potentially harmful molecules and other bacteria and viruses being able to enter the cerebro-spinal fluid surrounding the brain and the rest of the central nervous system. This increases the risk that tuberculosis and other infections will spread to the brain and cause further complications. There is also the risk of clusters of dead cells occurring and impairing cognitive functioning in much the same way as Alzheimer’s disease does. Further research does need to be done in this area to determine if there is any method of prevention or restriction for this particular form of HIV infection. At present only the short term effects of the HIV virus infecting the astrocytes of the central nervous system have been noted. The long term effects still must be documented and methods of prevention researched.
As time goes on, more and more information regarding the ways that HIV affects the human body comes to the fore and we realise that the effects of the virus is more far reaching that was originally believed. More and more areas of the body are being found to be infected and affected by the virus. Some of these additional areas of infection can be curtailed while we do not know enough about others to have any effect on them as yet.