Functional and structural damage of the intestinal mucosal barrier significantly contribute to translocation of gut microbial products into the bloodstream and are largely involved in HIV-1 associated chronic immune activation. This microbial translocation is largely due to a progressive exhaustion of intestinal macrophage phagocytic function, which leads to extracellular accumulation of microbial derived components and results in HIV-1 disease progression. This study aims to better understand whether the modulation of gut microbiota promotes an intestinal immune restoration in people living with HIV (PLWH). Long-term virologically suppressed PLWH underwent blood, colonic, and fecal sampling before (T0) and after 6 months (T6) of oral bacteriotherapy. Age- and gender-matched uninfected controls (UC) were also included. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was applied to all participants' fecal microbiota. Apoptosis machinery, mitochondria, and apical junctional complex (AJC) morphology and physiological functions were analyzed in gut biopsies. At T0, PLWH showed a different pattern of gut microbial flora composition, lower levels of occludin (p = 0.002) and zonulin (p = 0.01), higher claudin-2 levels (p = 0.002), a reduction of mitochondria number (p = 0.002), and diameter (p = 0.002), as well as increased levels of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) (p = 0.018) and cCK18 (p = 0.011), compared to UC. At T6, an increase in size (p = 0.005) and number (p = 0.008) of mitochondria, as well as amelioration in AJC structures (p < 0.0001) were observed. Restoration of bacterial richness (Simpson index) and biodiversity (Shannon index) was observed in all PLWH receiving oral bacteriotherapy (p < 0.05). Increased mitochondria size (p = 0.005) and number (p = 0.008) and amelioration of AJC structure (p < 0.0001) were found at T6 compared to T0. Moreover, increased occludin and zonulin concentration were observed in PLWH intestinal tracts and decreased levels of claudin-2, LPS, and cCK18 were found after oral bacteriotherapy (T0 vs. T6, p < 0.05 for all these measures). Oral bacteriotherapy supplementation might restore the balance of intestinal flora and support the structural and functional recovery of the gut mucosa in antiretroviral therapy treated PLWH.
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