Liver injury and changes in hepatitis C Virus (HCV) RNA load associated with protease inhibitor-based antiretroviral therapy for treatment-naive HCV-HIV-coinfected patients: lopinavir-ritonavir versus nelfinavir

Kenneth E Sherman, Norah J Shire, Paul Cernohous, Susan D Rouster, Janice H Omachi, Scott Brun, Barbara Da Silva
Clinical Infectious Diseases 2005 October 15, 41 (8): 1186-95

BACKGROUND: Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) initiation in patients coinfected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been associated with transaminase and HCV viral load flares. Previous studies have included highly variable antiretroviral regimens. We compared effects of 2 protease inhibitor-based regimens on alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels and HCV loads in HCV-HIV-coinfected patients initiating HAART.

METHODS: Seventy HIV-infected patients with positive baseline results of HCV enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay from a treatment trial comparing lopinavir-ritonavir with nelfinavir were evaluated during a 48-week period. HCV and HIV titers were analyzed at baseline, at weeks 24 and 48 of treatment, and during flares in the ALT level of >5 times the upper limit of normal.

RESULTS: A total of 57 of 70 patients tested positive for HCV RNA at baseline. HCV titers for patients in lopinavir-ritonavir and nelfinavir groups, respectively, were as follows: baseline, 6.07 and 6.22 log IU/mL; week 24 of treatment, 6.68 and 6.48 log IU/mL; and week 48 of treatment, 6.32 and 6.44 log IU/mL. Of patients with a CD4+ cell count of <100 cells/mm3 at baseline, 5 of 11 in the nelfinavir group and 0 of 10 in the lopinavir-ritonavir group had an increase in the HCV load of >0.5 log IU/mL from baseline to week 48. The mean ALT level increased by 45 U/L at 24 weeks and 18 U/L at 48 weeks in the nelfinavir group but decreased by 18 U/L at 24 weeks and 7 U/L at 48 weeks in the lopinavir-ritonavir group. Eight patients in the nelfinavir group and 2 patients in the lopinavir-ritonavir group had grade 3 or 4 flares in the ALT level.

CONCLUSIONS: HAART initiation is associated with increased HCV loads and ALT levels. A low baseline CD4+ cell count is associated with persistent increases in the HCV RNA load in nelfinavir-treated patients. These results warrant careful interpretation of abnormalities in the ALT load after HAART initiation in HCV-HIV-coinfected patients to prevent premature discontinuation of treatment.

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