A study by Jariwalla, et al., published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2008 Nov 2;14(2):139-146) reported on the effects of using 300 mg alpha lipoic acid, three times a day (900 mg) among 33 HIV+ men and women. These individuals had viral loads greater than 10,000 copies, despite being on antiretroviral therapy (ARV). The patients were randomized to receive either alpha lipoic acid or placebo over 6 months.
The main results included not only an increase in glutathione levels over baseline that was statistically significant, and a considerably enchanced ability of white blood cells (lymphocytes) to respond to antigens. In addition, as glutathione levels were increased, the ability of cells bearing CD3 molecules to respond to antigens was also enhanced.
While the intervention did not impact CD4 counts or viral load, these improvements in overall immunity in this very vulnerable population were encouraging. Improving the functional reactivity of lymphocytes to T-cell mitogens helps to strengthen immune responses to other potentially lethal pathogens. While a small study, this is encouraging news and further studies are needed in this and in populations of HIV+ individuals at other stages of infection and responsiveness to ARV therapy.
For background information on alpha lipoic acid, see the NYBC entry: