HIV Could Increase Inflammatory Biomarkers, Risk of Heart Disease

HIV-positive men were more likely to have increased levels of inflammatory biomarkers than HIV-negative men.

Researchers recently discovered a link between inflammatory biomarkers and heart disease in HIV-positive men.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, included 575 HIV-positive men and 350 HIV-negative men. All patients included were also a part of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study.

Researchers used computer tomography (CT) angiography to find signs of coronary artery disease (CAD). They looked for narrowed arteries and the presence of calcified plaque, as well as measuring for inflammatory biomarkers.

“We found that men infected with HIV had higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers than men who were not infected. There was a strong, independent association between the presence of these inflammatory biomarkers and subclinical CAD detected by CT scan,” said Hossein Bahrami, MD, PhD. “Although this study does not definitely prove the causal relationship between these markers and heart disease, it is suggestive of a possible role that persistent inflammation (even in HIV infected patients that are under appropriate treatments) may play in increasing the risk of heart disease in these patients.”

It is estimated that HIV-positive patients are twice as likely to develop CAD compared with HIV-negative patients, according to the study. These patients are also more likely to develop CAD earlier in life. Researchers said that CT imaging was crucial for this study, since it allowed them to image HIV-positive patients earlier before they exhibited symptoms.

“Inflammation has only recently been studied as a possible reason for chronic heart disease,” Dr Bahrami said. “Confirming the relationship between HIV-related inflammation and the marked increase of CAD among men infected with HIV allows us to move forward in our attempts to better manage the health of these patients according to their specific medical needs.”

Researchers are continuing their research by studying changes in the heart muscle and coronary artery function in HIV-positive men with cardiac magnetic resonance imagining. They hope to discover the cause of HIV-related inflammation and identify pathways involved in the inflammation, which will lead to improved care for these patients, the study concluded.