January 27, 2015

HIV-associated Diarrhea Successfully Treated With Curcumin


Conteas CN, Panossian AM, Tran TT, Singh H. Treatment of HIV-associated diarrhea with curcumin. Dig Dis Sci 2009;54:2188-2191.


Intervention trial


Eight male patients suffering from HIV-related diarrhea with no identifiable cause participated.

Study Medication and Dosage

Participants were instructed to take between 1 g and 3 g per day (mean daily dosage was 1.9 g) curcumin. Most dosing was divided into three-times-daily administration. The interventions lasted for a mean of 41 weeks.

Primary Outcome Measures

Number of bowel movements per day, weight gain, and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms

Key Findings

All 8 participants had a complete resolution of diarrhea and normalization of stools in a mean of 13 days. The mean number of bowel movements per day decreased from 6.7 to 1.7 (P=.006). Seven of 8 had weight gain averaging 10.8 lbs. Five of 6 with initial symptoms of bloating and abdominal pain also experienced resolution of those symptoms. On a 1-to-10 scale, symptoms scores fell from a baseline of 7.8 to 1.6 (P=.0001).

Practice Implications

Diarrhea is a common consequence of HIV disease. Though a bacterial agent is sometimes the cause, frequently no pathogen is found. No widely-accepted conventional treatment exists, and common antidiarrheal medicines that have been used frequently trigger side effects. Studied actions of curcumin (eg, antiinflammatory activity, inhibition of cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase) are numerous, making it difficult for us to pinpoint why its use was so successful in this small trial. Although this was a small, uncontrolled trial, the safety profile of curcumin and the discomfort associated with HIV-associated diarrhea paired with the remarkable success reported here suggests that, at least until we have more evidence, a therapeutic trial should be considered for all such patients. “Such patients” might not include those who do have identifiable pathogens as causative agents, given that the participants in the current trial had stool analyses run and all were free of identifiable pathogens at baseline. Curcumin is widely accepted as the primary therapeutic compound extracted from turmeric. No special form of curcumin extract was used in this trial. Indeed, all participants were told to purchase curcumin themselves from health food stores. The principal investigator claimed that the various products used by participants all appeared to produce equal efficacy (personal communication).

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