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Serum Retinol and HIV-1 RNA Viral Load in Rapid and Slow Progressors

Camp William L.; Allen, Susan; Alvarez, José O.; Jolly, Pauline E.; Weiss, Heidi L.; Phillips, Jack F.; Karita, Etienne; Serufilira, Antoine; Vermund, Sten H.
JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes: August 1st, 1998
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Few studies have addressed the relation between serum vitamin A levels and HIV disease progression. Thirty HIV-infected women in Rwanda were studied over a time span of 26 to 99 months. Fourteen subjects seroconverted and died of HIV-related disease at a mean of 44 months (range, 26-69 months) after their first HIV-positive test and were termed “rapid progressors,” (RPs). A comparison group of 16 “slow progressors” (SPs) were HIV-positive at the time of their first HIV serology and had asymptomatic HIV infections at a mean of 96 months (range, 93-99 months) after their first HIV serology. Baseline mean serum retinol values were the same in RPs and SPs: 0.65 + 0.08 μmol/L versus 0.67 + 0.09 μmol/L (p = .7). Lower serum retinol levels were observed in RPs compared with SPs for the second and third measurements, obtained at a median of 12 and 24 months past baseline: 0.51 + 0.07 μmol/L versus 0.76 + 0.14 μmol/L (p = .3) and 0.44 + 0.09 μmol/L versus 0.64 + 0.08 μmol/L (p = .08), respectively. Median retinol levels for the third sample measurement were similar in RPs with lower viral load (LVL) and SPs (0.49 μmol/L and 0.52 μmol/L, respectively) compared with only 0.19 μmol/L in RPs with higher viral load (HVL; p = .02). A trend toward decreasing serum retinol levels and increasing HIV-1 RNA viral load was observed at the third sample measurement (p = .04). Subjects with LVL, higher serum retinol levels (≥0.70 μmol/L), or both had more favorable rates of survival than subjects with HVL, low serum retinol levels (<0.70 μmol/L), or both. Although sample size does not permit definitive conclusions, this study demonstrates an association of high HIV load, rapid progression, and low serum retinol late but not early in disease progression.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Sten H. Vermund, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health (Ryals 220A), Birmingham, AL, 35294-0022, U.S.A.; email:

Manuscript received July 7, 1997; accepted November 6, 1997.

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.