Redistribution of body fat in HIV-infected women undergoing combined antiretroviral therapy

C Gervasoni, A L Ridolfo, G Trifirò, S Santambrogio, G Norbiato, M Musicco, M Clerici, M Galli, M Moroni
AIDS 1999 March 11, 13 (4): 465-71

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the prevalence, metabolic features and risk factors of a particular pattern of fat redistribution (FR), characterized by a progressive enlargement of breast and abdominal girth associated with a wasting of the lower limbs, observed in HIV-infected women treated with combined antiretroviral (ARV) therapy.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SETTING: Outpatients attending the Institute of Infectious Diseases, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: HIV-infected women treated with two or more ARV drugs, observed between December 1997 and February 1998. FR was confirmed by means of a physical examination and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). The metabolic and endocrinological measurements in patients with FR were compared with those in FR-free women.

RESULTS: FR was observed in 32 out of 306 women (10.5%). DEXA revealed more trunk fat (P < 0.01) and less leg fat (P < 0.001) in the patients with FR than in the matched controls. There were no significant differences in laboratory test results between the two groups. All of the FR patients were taking lamivudine-containing regimens; 20 of them were also taking a protease inhibitor (PI). The association of FR with lamivudine-including regimens was statistically significant (P = 0.017). Among the patients taking lamivudine, the risk associated with treatments including PI was 1.8 (95% CI 0.8-3.8, P = 0.12). A total duration of ARV therapy of more than 1000 days was associated with a greater risk of developing FR (OR 10.8; 95% CI 1.4-80.5; P = 0.0207). Stepwise logistic regression analyses indicated that prolonged ARV therapy and a viral load of more than 10000 copies per ml at the beginning of the last ARV regimen were the only variables that significantly and independently correlated with the risk of FR.

CONCLUSIONS: The observed body modifications are caused by a redistribution of body fat without fat loss that is apparently not associated with hyperlipidemia, altered glucose metabolism or other endocrinological disorders. The development of FR in patients receiving only reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors suggests the presence of a PI-independent mechanism that deserves further investigation.

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