Selenium Supplementation and HIV Infections: A Review

Symptoms of AIDS
The six selenium and HIV infection studies show a beneficial effect of daily supplementation with 200 micrograms of selenium on immune function, in particular on CD4 white blood cell counts. The same beneficial effect on the immune system may be protective against other forms of infection, including against Covid-19 infections.

Six randomized controlled studies show that providing daily selenium supplementation to HIV-infected adults increases CD4 cell counts, reduces the risk of diarrhea morbidity, and lowers hospital admission rates for HIV-related conditions and opportunistic infection in HIV-infected adults [Kayode 2020].

Alexander et al [2020] have recognized the importance of selenium to immune system function and have recommended the initiation of adequate selenium supplementation in high-risk Covid-19 areas and as soon as possible after a suspected Covid-19 infection.

Richie et al [2014] have shown that selenium supplementation in the form of selenium-enriched yeast provides significantly greater protection against oxidative stress than supplementation with exclusively selenomethionine does. read more

Selenium Supplementation and HIV Infections

Selenium supplementation of HIV-infected patients can slow the progression of the virus, improve CD4 cell counts, and reduce the risk of mortality. The form and the dosage of the selenium supplementation needs to be researched further. At present, supplementation with 200 micrograms of high-selenium yeast daily seems most promising, but the dosage will vary according to regional variation in the selenium content in the soil and food.

Humans with low blood selenium concentrations are more likely to have impaired immune function and rapid mutation of benign variants of RNA viruses to virulent forms.  Low blood selenium concentrations are concentrations less than 1 micromol of selenium per liter of blood = less than 78 micrograms of selenium per liter of blood [Harthill].

If a virus-infected, selenium-deficient human host is supplemented with selenium, the mutation rate of the virus tends to decrease, and the immune function tends to improve [Harthill].

Thus, the selenium status of the human host can have a profound effect on the development of a virus infection In cases of selenium deficiency, a normally non-virulent virus can become virulent.  A virus can become pathogenic by replicating in a nutritionally deficient human host [Beck]. read more

Selenium and HIV and opportunistic infections

Individuals infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) commonly have low selenium status. Selenium supplementation can prevent or delay the decline of immune system function and can protect against opportunistic infections.

Selenium supplements – especially selenium supplements as a component of a multi-micronutrient cocktail – can help to delay the decline of the immune system and can reduce the risk of death in HIV-infected patients.  Most of the data that we have comes from randomized controlled studies carried out in African countries, but the results are relevant to the United States and Europe.  Moreover, the results from studies of HIV-infected patients speak to the issue of the anti-microbial protection and antioxidant protection that comes with adequate selenium status.

Selenium and HIV and CD4 counts
CD4 cells are white blood cells that are part of the immune system.  Specifically, the CD4 cells fight infections in the body.  The HIV virus kills CD4 cells.  When a person has fewer CD4 cells, he or she is at greater risk of contracting an infection. read more

How we know that selenium supplementation is important

Selen supplementation, virus
Adequate intakes of selenium are needed to ensure the optimal functioning of the selenoproteins in the body. Selenoproteins provide protection against the development of cancer and heart disease; they are important for immune system defense; they protect against damage caused by heavy metals and chemical toxins and radiation. And, there is evidence that some of the selenoproteins have anti-viral properties.

Selenium?  A trace element?  You might well ask: How do we know that adequate amounts of dietary and supplemental selenium are important to us?
The first answer is: because we can see that selenium deficiency makes people sick.
A further answer is that we now know that selenium is an essential component of antioxidant enzymes.
And, on the basis of the results of randomized controlled trials, we know that selenium supplementation reduces the risk of cancer, reduces the risk of heart disease, and improves immune function.
Selenium is also very useful for reducing the toxic effects of heavy metals in the body.

Reason number one: Selenium-deficiency diseases
Keshan disease
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, thousands of people living in a region of China with selenium-poor soil, and, consequently, with selenium-poor food, died from the effects of a form of heart disease.  The disease, which took its name from Keshan county in the afflicted region of China, is characterized by inflammation and enlargement of the heart muscle and excess fluid in the lungs. The primary cause of the disease was selenium deficiency. read more

The functions of selenium supplements

skin-cells antioxidant
Selenium is an important component of the antioxidant defense in the cells. It helps to protect against oxidative damage to both cells and DNA. It has been shown to have a protective effect against the damage to skin cells caused by ultraviolet radiation.

Why the interest in selenium facts?  Here, at the beginning of the website, we want to review in broad terms what we know about the functions of selenium supplementation. We are especially interested in selenium’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the human body.

Selenium is an essential trace element in the human diet, and, in many regions of the world, it is an absolutely necessary nutritional supplement.  It has many and diverse functions in the human body.

One of the interesting things about selenium is that it does not perform its functions as an element or an ion.  Instead, it functions as a component of more complex compounds.  In particular, it is an essential component of the 21st amino acid, selenocysteine. read more