(ORDO NEWS) — In people living with HIV, the internal biological clock is constantly experiencing something similar to the symptoms of jet lag, according to new data. That’s how it makes life difficult.
The findings of a new study published in the Journal of Pineal Research may explain some of the health concerns of people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
For example, scientists from the UK and South Africa studied people aged 45 and older living in the South African province of Mpumalanga, where almost one in four people lives with HIV.
Physiological circadian rhythms, as measured by the hormone melatonin, were found to be delayed by more than an hour on average in HIV-positive participants.
Health problems with HIV
So, the sleep cycle in people infected with the virus is also shorter than normal, sleep starts later and ends earlier.
The results of the study raise the possibility that HIV infection may cause jet lag-like disruption of the circadian rhythm.
Scientists believe that this disruption of the biological clock may contribute to an increase in common health problems that HIV-infected people experience despite successful treatment (the list includes an increased risk of cardiovascular, metabolic and psychiatric disorders).
South Africa has the fourth highest prevalence of HIV in the world, and researchers believe there is an urgent need for additional funding to determine whether people living with HIV in other countries experience similar biological clock disruptions.
“They essentially experience a one-hour DST break, but every morning,” says Professor Malcolm von Schanz, professor of chronobiology at Northumbria University.
“This is happening despite the fact that virtually everyone is exposed to the same cycle of day and night.
Our findings have important potential implications for human health and well-being, especially given the well-established links between disrupted circadian rhythms and sleep deprivation,” added Dr. Karin Scheuermeier of the University of the Witwatersrand.
“The next step is to establish whether the same biological clock disturbances exist in HIV-infected people who are younger and live in other countries,” says Xavier Gomez-Olivé, also from the University of the Witwatersrand.
Dale Ray of the University of Cape Town said : “This is a great example of the importance of studying sleep in people living in Africa and shows how the results of the study can be relevant to people anywhere in the world.”
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