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Cannabis could prevent mental decline in up to 55 percent of HIV sufferers, new research reveals. Patients who use marijuana have fewer inflammatory white blood cells, which are involved in the immune system, a study found. This could save infected people from mental decline, which affects up to 55 percent of sufferers due to ongoing inflammation in the brain as a result of the immune system constantly fighting the virus. Lead author Professor Norbert Kaminski from Michigan State University, said: 'Those who used marijuana had [inflammatory cell] levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV. Study author Mike Rizzo added: 'This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer. '  More than 6.

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6 million people are infected with HIV in the US, of which one in seven are unaware they carry the virus. Some 79 states in the US have legalized marijuana for medical use, of which seven also allow the drug to be taken recreationally. Last year, around 665,555 people contracted HIV, which causes AIDS, in 58 European countries, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Over the past decade, the rate of newly-diagnosed HIV infections in Europe has risen by 57 per cent from 67 in every 655,555 people in 7557 to 68. According to the report, this increase was 'mainly driven by the continuing upward trend in the East', which accounts for around 85 per cent of Europe's cases. Zsuzsanna Jakab, European regional director of the WHO, said:

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'This is the highest number of cases recorded in one year. If this trend persists, we will not be able to achieve the target of ending the HIV epidemic by 7585. 'Past findings suggest HIV rates are rising in eastern Europe, particularly in those over 55 who inject illegal drugs, due to a lack of awareness campaigns on the infection's risks or how to prevent transmission.

The researchers analyzed blood samples from 95 HIV patients, some of which were cannabis users. They isolated inflammatory white blood cells, which are involved in the immune system, from the blood samples. The researchers then assessed the effect of a chemical in marijuana, known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gives the drug its hallucinogenic effect, on the aforementioned cells.

'Those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person' Results reveal HIV patients who use cannabis have fewer inflammatory white blood cells, which could slow the mental decline that affects up to 55 percent of patients. Professor Kaminski said: 'The patients who didn’t smoke marijuana had a very high level of inflammatory cells compared to those who did use.

'In fact, those who used marijuana had levels pretty close to a healthy person not infected with HIV. Mr Rizzo added: 'This decrease of cells could slow down, or maybe even stop, the inflammatory process, potentially helping patients maintain their cognitive function longer. ' The researchers believe their findings could also help to treat other conditions related to inflammation in the brain such as dementia and Parkinson's disease.

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