In refitted models including current ART class, current NNRTI use was associated with an increased risk of fat abnormality [adjusted odds ratio (AOR), 1.97; 95% CI: 1.11 to 3.50], lipohypertrophy (AOR, 2.49; 95% CI: 1.08 to 5.78), combined phenotype (AOR, 6.45; 95% CI: 1.62 to 25.71), and LS (AOR, 2.78; 95% CI: 1.20 to 5.45), whereas current PI use was associated with an increased risk of LS (AOR, 2.56; 95% CI: 1.26 to 6.11) and combined phenotype (AOR, 5.41; 95% CI: 1.36 to 24.48).
Repeating the model selection procedure with the inclusion of an interaction between age and sex demonstrated a lack of significance for any outcome. Sensitivity analyses were conducted using the outcome of moderate/severe versus no/mild fat abnormality. Similar directions of association were found although not all risk factors reached statistical significance (data not shown).
In our unadjusted analysis, subjects undergoing puberty or with completed puberty had a 2- to 3-fold increased risk of fat abnormality. We excluded Tanner score from our adjusted models as sex and age were included, and we did not want to overadjust for puberty. In separate analyses where Tanner score was included in our stepwise modeling, it remained significantly associated with fat abnormality in the final model, giving credence to the role of puberty in LS (data not shown). In analyses adjusting for ever-use of ART, there was a significant 17% and 13% increased risk of lipoatrophy and of the combined phenotype per year of age. The similar associations with age reported in adults are generally of a smaller magnitude: In the Swiss HIV Cohort, there was an 18% increased risk of fat abnormality per decade increase in age at baseline.34 It is not certain to what extent such changes are the result of “normal” age-associated fat gain unrelated to HIV in adults.34 The pattern of body fat abnormalities here, with the trunk the most and the neck the least common location, is similar to reports from adult studies2,35 but somewhat dissimilar to that reported in children,8 possibly reflecting the older age of our population.
Lipohypertrophy in the trunk reported in a HIV-seronegative individual undergoing postexposure prophylaxis36 together with animal studies37–39 indicate that ART may be central in LS pathogenesis. However, our finding that some ART-naive children develop fat abnormalities is consistent with a multifactorial process, including possible direct action of HIV itself.40 We demonstrated an increased risk of LS and/or the combined lipoatrophy/lipohypertrophy phenotype associated with current and past PI use. PI use has been inconsistently shown to be associated with lipoatrophy in adults,2,41,42 with data from cross-sectional pediatric studies similarly conflicting.8,11,12,32 Postulated mechanisms behind PI use and lipoatrophy include inhibition of proteins involved in lipid metabolism43–45 and insulin dysregulation.44,46
NRTI use has been strongly implicated in the pathogenesis of fat abnormalities, particularly lipoatrophy,41 with potential mechanisms including mitochondrial damage in adipocytes47 and inhibition of adipogenesis.48 Our findings with respect to stavudine are consistent with previous reports8,11,32,34,42,49–53; more than 10% of our subjects were currently receiving stavudine, despite current guidelines.22
One third of our subjects had both lipoatrophy and lipohypertrophy. Increasing age and BMI and past use of some specific drugs (from all 3 classes) were associated with an increased risk of this combined phenotype, whereas current lamivudine and zidovudine use was associated with a significantly reduced risk. In subgroup analysis, this latter association seemed to be driven by males and children older than 11 years (data not shown). The associations of the combined phenotype with age and past drug exposure suggest that its emergence may be progressive and associated with cumulative ART exposure over time.
Current nevirapine use was associated with an increased risk of LS, whereas associations between LS and fat abnormalities were demonstrated with past and/or current use of efavirenz. Although the association of NNRTIs with fat abnormality has not been investigated in child/adolescent studies, our results are consistent with adult studies.54–56 Pediatric reports have described associations between longer treatment duration and increased risk of fat abnormality in body fat abnormality11,24 unlike in our investigation.
Around two thirds of our cohort was of white ethnicity, associated with 3 to 4 times increased risk of lipoatrophy and fat abnormality, consistent with other studies.49,59,62 Underlying genetic differences between ethnic groups may explain these findings, the metabolic syndrome having been shown to occur less frequently in individuals of black compared with white ethnicity in non–HIV-infected populations.63
Several studies have reported a negative impact of body fat changes on self-esteem and psychological profile in HIV-infected adults,64–66 which has been linked to nonadherence to ART.67,68 Little is known about the impact in children or adolescents,69 but this is likely to be an issue for adolescents, given that this is a time when self-image is important. Our study did not collect information on self-reported body image, but the fact that approximately 7% of children and adolescents had severe and potentially stigmatizing fat loss or gain demonstrates the need for further research.
A limitation of our study is its observational nature and the potential for confounding. Some previous studies have relied on self-reported changes potentially leading to over-reporting of body shape changes.65 Our approach, with fat abnormality assessed according to strictly defined criteria using a scale of severity by the child's established clinician, avoids such misclassification but remains a subjective measure. A minority (28%; 50/176) of body fat abnormality cases were based on abnormality in a single body site; only 31 subjects (7% of all participants) were categorized as having fat abnormality on the basis of trunk lipohypertrophy alone (26 mild and 5 moderate). Furthermore, risk factors identified in our main analyses were confirmed by sensitivity analyses investigating moderate/severe fat abnormality (although not necessarily reaching statistical significance). However, given that the clinician would be aware of the ART status of the patient when making the assessment of fat abnormality, the potential for bias cannot be discounted. Our multisite design provided us with a large sample size compared with previous pediatric studies, resulting in a diverse study sample and good generalizability. We addressed potential systemic differences in clinical practice by incorporating a random effect for clinical site within our models. Finally, the analyses presented here are based on recruitment data and thus limited by their cross-sectional nature. We are collecting longitudinal data on our cohort and will be able to address issues including incidence and progression or regression of fat abnormality in the future.
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