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Clin Infect Dis. 2009 Aug 15;49(4):626-35. doi: 10.1086/603559.

Association of noncirrhotic portal hypertension in HIV-infected persons and antiretroviral therapy with didanosine: a nested case-control study.

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  • 1Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology, University Hospital, Zurich CH-8091, Switzerland. helen.kovari@usz.ch



Noncirrhotic portal hypertension (NCPH) is a newly described life-threatening liver disease of unknown cause in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected persons. Postulated pathogenesis includes prolonged exposure to antiretroviral therapy, particularly didanosine.


We performed a nested case-control study including 15 patients with NCPH and 75 matched control subjects of the Swiss HIV Cohort Study to investigate risk factors for the development of NCPH. Matching criteria were similar duration of HIV infection, absence of viral hepatitis, and follow-up to at least the date of NCPH diagnosis in the respective case.


All 15 case patients had endoscopically documented esophageal varices and absence of liver cirrhosis on biopsies; 4 died because of hepatic complications. At NCPH diagnosis, case patients and control subjects were similar concerning sex; race; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stage; HIV-RNA level; CD4 cell count nadir; and lipids and lipodystrophy. Differences were found in age (conditional logistic regression odds ratio [OR] for 10 years older, 2.9; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.4-6.1); homosexuality (OR, 4.5; 95% CI, 1.2-17); current CD4 cell count <200 cells/microL (OR, 34.3; 95% CI, 4.3-277); diabetes mellitus (OR, 8.8; 95% CI, 1.6-49); alanine aminotransferase level higher than normal (OR, 13.0; 95% CI, 2.7-63); alkaline phosphatase higher than normal (OR, 18.3; 95% CI, 4.0-85); and platelets lower than normal (OR, 20.5; 95% CI, 2.4-178). Cumulative exposure to antiretroviral therapy (OR per year, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.0-1.6), nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor (OR, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.1-1.7), didanosine (OR, 3.4; 95% CI, 1.5-8.1), ritonavir (OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.0-1.9), and nelfinavir (OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.0-1.9) were longer in case patients. Exposure to nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor and other protease inhibitors were not different between groups. In bivariable models, only the association of NCPH with didanosine exposure was robust; other covariables were not independent risk factors.


We found a strong association between prolonged exposure to didanosine and the development of NCPH.

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