Of the 25 million people infected with HIV-1 in Africa, as many as half are thought to be co-infected with worms (helminths), and there is evidence that these worms may result in a more rapid progression of HIV infection to AIDS. Does treating these worms (“de-worming”) slow down this progression.

In a new study published in the open access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Judd Walson and Grace John-Stewart at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA set out to answer this question. Their study found that there were simply not enough data to make any firm conclusions, and they call for larger, well-designed studies to help come to a definitive answer.

There were five studies in the final analysis. All five were limited by short follow up times. Only one of these was a randomized controlled trial (RCT)—it compared the effects of treating worms in people with HIV against no treatment. The trial did find some benefit from the de-worming treatment. In patients with HIV who did not receive the de-worming treatment, their viral load (a measure of the amount of HIV in their bloodstream) went up. In contrast, the viral load of patients who were de-wormed remained stable. However, de-worming was not associated with improvements in the patients’ immune status (as measured by the CD4 count) or in their clinical condition.

*Reposted at Request