|Aflatoxins are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and immunotoxic chemicals produced by some species of Aspergillus. Many foodstuffs are frequently contaminated with aflatoxins- especially grains or peanuts that have been stored under wet conditions. Many parts of Africa have both high levels of alfatoxin contamination in foods and feeds and high percentages of the population who are HIV+.|
Both aflatoxin exposure and HIV can severely suppress the immune system. HIV severely depresses certain immune cells like CD4. Earlier research by the same Jolly et al. team reported that moderate to high blood levels of alfatoxins are associated with significantly lower CD4 levels in both HIV+ and HIV- people.
Exposure to alfatoxins may also increase HIV viral loads in humans already infected with HIV. A study of 574 HIV+ adults in Ghana measured blood levels of both aflatoxin B1 and HIV viral load. Persons with blood serum aflatoxin levels in the highest quartile were 2.9 times as likely to have high HIV viral loads (more than 10,000 HIV virons per milliliter serum) as people in the lowest quartile of exposure.