January 9, 2012

Classical and emerging roles of vitamin d in hepatitis C virus infection

Semin Liver Dis. 2011 Nov;31(4):387-98. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

Gutierrez JA, Parikh N, Branch AD.


Division of Gastroenterology, University of California, San Diego, California.


According to the Institute of Medicine, the risk of clinically significant vitamin D deficiency increases at 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 20 ng/mL. By this standard, most cirrhotic hepatitis C virus- (HCV-) positive patients and many noncirrhotic patients are vitamin D-deficient. The high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among HCV patients is a cause for concern for several specific reasons. Classic studies established the importance of vitamin D and calcium in maintaining bone. Vitamin D's beneficial effects on bone are likely to be vital for HCV-infected patients because these individuals have a high prevalence of low bone mineral density. Many pharmaceutical agents reduce bone density and exposure to these drugs may increase bone disease in HCV-positive patients. Bone loss occurs following liver transplantation and bone density is often low in patients with HIV/HCV co-infection who are on combination antiretroviral therapy. Some evidence suggests that ribavirin reduces bone density, underscoring the special need to monitor vitamin D in patients receiving HCV treatment and to prescribe supplements, as appropriate. In addition to its role in calcium metabolism, vitamin D is also an immune modulator that reduces inflammation while enhancing protective immune responses. Higher vitamin D levels are associated with less liver fibrosis and less inflammation in HCV patients. Recent studies show that low vitamin D levels are associated with treatment failure among HCV-infected patients receiving pegylated-interferon and ribavirin. If confirmed, these findings will provide an additional reason to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D. Information about how to monitor vitamin D status and how to use vitamin D supplements most effectively in HCV-infected patients is provided.

© Thieme Medical Publishers.


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