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Dr. Marquine's Work on Reducing Health Disparities

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded an R01 grant to Maria Marquine, PhD, Assistant Professor of the Department of Psychiatry and the Stein Institute for Research on Aging to study factors related to cognitive impairment among older Latinos with and without HIV infection. 

Nearly fifty percent of people living with HIV in the United States are fifty or older, and that number is expected to grow to seventy percent by 2020. Aging with HIV has its challenges. Neurocognitive impairment (NCI) is one of the most prevalent—forty percent of patients living with HIV suffer from noticeable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills. 

“HIV-infected Latinos have an increased risk for NCI and neurocognitive decline, and this risk is particularly pronounced in older age,” said Maria Marquine, PhD. “Yet, the factors underlying these disparities are not well understood.” The newly funded study will be one of the first large-scale investigations of aging in HIV-infected Latinos aged forty and older. 

The study will focus on two biological processes: metabolic syndrome and gut microbiome dysbiosis. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions—such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol—that occur together, increasing one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Microbiome dysbiosis is a microbial imbalance or maladaptation in the gut. Both conditions may be particularly problematic among Hispanics and may result in greater brain vulnerability to HIV. 

The study will also integrate aspects of the built and sociocultural environment (assessed via geocoding), the impact of behavior (physical activity and diet), and healthcare (healthcare use and access, and health literacy). The data will be collected in 200 HIV-positive and HIV-uninfected Hispanics (approximately half will be Spanish-speaking) aged forty and older over the course of three years. 

Dr. Marquine has assembled a multidisciplinary research, including experts in cross-cultural neuropsychology, health disparities, medicine, public health, microbiomics, geography, and bioinformatics. 

“Our hope is that understanding factors that lead to NCI will help us reduce health disparities and improve quality of life and well-being in adults living with HIV,” said Marquine.​

Read more about Dr. Marquine's work on diversity here.