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Small intestinal transit, absorption, and permeability in patients with AIDS with and without diarrhoea
  1. D Sharpstonea,
  2. P Neilda,
  3. R Cranec,
  4. C Taylorb,
  5. C Hodgsonb,
  6. R Sherwoodc,
  7. B Gazzarda,
  8. I Bjarnasonc
  1. aDepartment of HIV/GUM, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, UK, bDepartment of HIV/GUM, Guy’s, King’s, and St Thomas’s Medical School, London, UK, cDepartment of Medicine, Guy’s, King’s, and St Thomas’s Medical School, London, UK
  1. Dr I Bjarnason, Reader in Medicine and Gastroenterology, Guy’s, King’s, and St Thomas’s Medical Schools, Bessemer Road, London SE5 9PJ, UK.


BACKGROUND Diarrhoea in AIDS is associated with anorexia and weight loss. The importance of gastrointestinal transit in such symptoms has not been addressed.

AIMS To assess jejunal to caecal transit times in subjects with AIDS related diarrhoea and weight loss and correlate these with measures of absorptive capacity and intestinal permeability.

METHODS Jejunal to caecal transit times were assessed in 20 seronegative controls and 60 HIV seropositive subjects from serum analysis of 3-O-methyl-d-glucose and sulphapyridine after ingestion of the monosaccharide and sulphasalazine in aqueous solution. The method also allows an estimation of gastric emptying times for liquids. Intestinal absorptive capacity and permeability were assessed by a combined test using 3-O-methyl-d-glucose, d-xylose,l-rhamnose, and lactulose.

RESULTS Gastric emptying was significantly delayed in all groups of patients with AIDS. Mean jejunal to caecal transit times were not significantly different between controls (246 (62) minutes) and patients without diarrhoea (AIDS, well: 278 (103) minutes; AIDS, wasting: 236 (68) minutes), cytomegalovirus colitis (289 (83) minutes), pathogen negative diarrhoea (192 (100) minutes), or microsporidiosis (190 (113) minutes), although 30% of patients had values below the control range. Patients with cryptosporidiosis differed significantly from controls (135 (35) minutes, p<0.0001), seven of 10 having rapid transit times. Absorptive capacity was reduced and intestinal permeability significantly increased in AIDS, but did not correlate significantly with transit times.

CONCLUSION Small bowel transit is accelerated in many patients with AIDS, particularily in protozoal diarrhoea, but is not the sole explanation for malabsorption of monosaccharides.

  • intestinal infection
  • intestinal absorption
  • intestinal transit
  • intestinal function
  • AIDS
  • HIV
  • Abbreviations used in this paper

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