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Mitochondrion. 2004 Jul;4(2-3):163-8.

L-Carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine in the treatment of complications associated with HIV infection and antiretroviral therapy.

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Pediatric and Reproductive Endocrinology Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


L-Carnitine (LC) and acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) play major roles in cell energy and lipid metabolism. Supplementation with these nutrients, which are highly popular in USA, has been associated with favorable effects, including anti-oxidant action, neuro- and cardioprotection, immunomodulation, and cognitive enhancement. Patients with HIV infection and undergoing highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) often develop complications, such as polyneuropathy, skeletal myopathy, dyslipidemia and lipodystrophy, which have been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction. Moreover, these patients are often LC-deficient. Thus, they may benefit from LC and ALC supplementation. Indeed, oral, i.v., or i.m. administration of large doses of LC and/or ALC to HIV positive subjects untreated/treated with HAART was shown to: (1) increase the number of CD4 cells and reduce lymphocyte apoptosis; (2) improve symptoms of polyneuropathy; (3) prevent cardiovascular damage from wasting and diarrhea syndromes; (4) decrease serum levels of triglycerides and TNFalpha. No significant toxicities were associated with LC and ALC treatment. Although promising, most of these findings derive from small uncontrolled clinical trials. Further research is warranted to prove the efficacy and safety of LC and ALC supplementation in patients with complications of HIV infection and HAART.


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