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Curr Med Chem. 2008;15(28):2991-9.

Metabolic-inflammatory changes, and accelerated atherosclerosis in HIV patients: rationale for preventative measures.

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Beta cell Diabetes Centre, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, 369 Fulham Road, London, SW10 9NH, UK.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients are at a significantly higher risk from coronary heart diseases (CHD) and myocardial infarction (MI) compared to gender- and age-matched non-infected individuals. Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) has transformed a fatal illness into a chronic stable condition. However, cART induces metabolic abnormalities in HIV-infected patients, while its role in vascular atherosclerosis is still under investigation. The use of cART is linked to inflammation - a key mechanism in atherosclerotic progression and destabilisation that precedes clinical events like MI. There is evidence of visceral fat abnormal distribution in HIV infected patients, and inflammatory changes in HIV infected patients drive the initiation, progression and, ultimately, thrombotic clinical complications induced by atherosclerosis. Visceral adipose tissue, a virtual factory for manufacturing pro-inflammatory mediators, affects the liver function. The inflamed liver promotes the development of pro-atherogenic dyslipidaemia. Pro-inflammatory cytokines released by adipocytes travel to the skeletal muscles and other peripheral tissues, worsening insulin sensitivity and leading to hyperglycaemia. Increased high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) inflammatory marker is associated with endothelial dysfunction in HIV-infected patients. Increased levels of monocytic nuclear factor kappa-B (NFkappa-B), a master switch in the inflammatory cascade, are documented in patients with elevated hs-CRP levels. It can be assumed that, as a result of NFkappa-B activation, hs-CRP up-regulates cytokines that contribute to MI by recruiting leukocytes and promoting thrombosis. This review focuses on the association of HIV-infection, metabolic abnormalities and known mechanisms involved in inducing accelerated atherosclerosis and inflammation in HIV-infected patients, as well as the role of lipid lowering agents in potentially preventing CHD.

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