Dr. Sales Martinez’s new research looks to understand the effect of cocaine use on the gastrointestinal tract in HIV-infected adults

Dr. Sabrina Sales Martinez, assistant professor in Stempel College’s department of dietetics and nutrition, is conducting a study on the effects of cocaine use on the gastrointestinal tract in HIV-infected adults in Miami, Florida.

Currently, there is no data on the interaction of the intestinal microbiome, microbiome-related metabolomics and inflammation in the context of cocaine use in HIV-infected individuals.

Patients infected with HIV tend to suffer from several gastrointestinal-related symptoms, including the presence of intestinal microbiota dysbiosis – an imbalance in the composition of bacteria.  This is further exasperated when these patients use narcotics. Drug use plays a major role in the HIV/AIDS epidemic and still remains a barrier to effectively tackling the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Additionally, cocaine use is a risk factor for HIV disease progression, independent of antiretroviral therapy use, and has also been associated with a pro-inflammatory state.

Cocaine“The people who we are studying live within a population with several health disparities. These disparities can make it even more difficult for those with HIV to maintain a healthy microbiome, as they tend to suffer from food insecurity and other issues,” said Dr. Sales Martinez.

This is a cross-sectional study that will include covariates such as dietary intake, food security, and sexual behavior that may also affect the intestinal microbiome. Understanding key intestinal bacterial functional pathways that may be altered due to combined impact of cocaine use and HIV-infection will provide a better understanding of the relationships between the host intestinal microbiome and inflammation, and potentially provide novel treatments to improve the health of HIV infected substance users.

“Having the opportunity to work with this underserved population has been very rewarding.  Although good nutrition will not provide a cure for HIV, it will provide a better quality of life, so the individuals can live longer and continue to be productive members of society,” continued Dr. Sales Martinez. “People living with HIV are deserving of greater attention and need more evidence-based research that focuses on their special needs.”