The effect of antiretroviral therapy on liver disease among adults with HIV and hepatitis C coinfection

Shruti H Mehta, David L Thomas, Michael Torbenson, Sherilyn Brinkley, Lisa Mirel, Richard E Chaisson, Richard D Moore, Mark S Sulkowski
Hepatology: Official Journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases 2005, 41 (1): 123-31
In the era of antiretroviral therapy (ART), liver disease has emerged as an important cause of death among persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/hepatitis C virus (HCV) coinfection. The objective of this study was to estimate the burden of liver disease and evaluate determinants of liver fibrosis and necroinflammatory activity among HIV/HCV coinfected patients receiving ART. We studied 112 randomly selected and 98 referred HCV-infected patients undergoing care in the Johns Hopkins University HIV clinic. Liver disease was characterized clinically and histologically. Of the 210 individuals studied--64% of whom had received ART within 2 years of liver disease assessment--33% had no fibrosis (F0), and 26% had bridging fibrosis or cirrhosis (> or =F3). The median necroinflammatory activity score was 3 (range, 0-9 of 18). ART was not associated with fibrosis; however, significantly less hepatic necroinflammatory activity was observed among persons who had received highly active antiretroviral therapy longer (P = .02) and more effectively (defined by HIV RNA suppression; P < .01). Twelve percent of individuals had previous ART-associated liver enzyme elevations (grades 3-4), but liver fibrosis was not more severe if the liver enzyme elevation resolved. On the other hand, liver fibrosis was more severe in persons with persistent liver enzyme elevations (grades 1-4). In conclusion, despite widespread exposure to ART and documented instances of ART-related hepatitis, we found no evidence that ART caused serious histological liver disease. Recognition of bridging fibrosis and cirrhosis in some but not most patients underscores the importance of identifying and treating liver disease in HIV/HCV coinfected persons.

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