June 2, 2006
The authors analyzed data from a longitudinal medical records review project conducted in over 100 US medical clinics from 1998 to 2004 to describe the effect of hepatitis C virus (HCV) on the progression of HIV and on early changes in the CD4 cell count and HIV viral load after HAART initiation.
The researchers examined data from HIV patients receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), calculated adjusted hazard ratios describing the hazard of death or progression to an AIDS-defining opportunistic illness (AIDS-OI) associated with prevalent HCV infection, and estimated the change in CD4 cell count and HIV viral load after HAART initiation, stratified by HCV status.
Of a total of 10,481 HIV patients followed for a median of 1.9 years, 19 percent had HCV. HCV infection was not associated with progression to AIDS-OI or death after controlling for important confounding conditions. Factors significantly confounding the risk of both death and diagnosis of an AIDS-OI were alcoholism, drug-induced hepatitis, and the type of ART prescribed. Acute and chronic hepatitis B infection confounded the risk of AIDS-OI diagnosis. During the 12 months after beginning HAART, proportional increases in CD4 cell counts did not differ between HCV-infected and HCV-uninfected individuals. Likewise, the short-term change in viral load did not differ.
"In our cohort, HCV did not increase the risk of death or AIDS-OI, and did not affect the early immunological or virological response to initial HAART," the investigators concluded. "Clinicians should evaluate patients with HCV for other, manageable problems, including alcoholism and other viral hepatitis."