Mechanisms of bone disease in HIV and hepatitis C virus: impact of bone turnover, tenofovir exposure, sex steroids and severity of liver disease

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Both HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections are associated with higher osteoporotic fracture risk. Increased bone turnover, liver fibrosis, tenofovir (TDF) use or hormonal imbalances are possible underlying mechanisms.


This prospective, cross-sectional study assessed 298 male volunteers with either virologically suppressed HIV or untreated HCV mono-infections, HIV/HCV co-infection and noninfected controls.


Study participants underwent bone mineral density (BMD) by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and measurement of bone turnover markers [BTM: C-telopeptide (CTX) and osteocalcin (OC)], insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), the sex steroids testosterone (T) and estradiol (E2), and the aspartate aminotransferase-to-platelet ratio index (APRI). Impact of HIV and HCV status on BMD was evaluated in multivariate models adjusting for APRI score, BTM, TDF exposure, IGF-1, and sex steroids.


HIV and HCV status independently predicted lower BMD, controlling for age, race, BMI, and smoking (P = 0.017 and P = 0.010, respectively), whereas APRI did not (P = 0.84). HIV was associated with increased bone resorption (CTX: P < 0.001) and formation (OC: P = 0.014), whereas HCV infection was not associated with CTX (P = 0.30) or OC (P = 0.36). TDF exposure was associated with lower BMD (P < 0.01). IGF-1 was significantly decreased in HCV and increased in HIV. Tumor necrosis factor-α (P = 0.98), IGF-1 (P = 0.80), bioavailable T (P = 0.45) and E2 (P = 0.27) were not associated with BMD and did not attenuate the impact of HIV or HCV on BMD.


HIV and TDF exposure decrease BMD through increased bone turnover, although the lower BMD in HCV is not explained by a high turnover state. Neither virus’ effect on BMD is likely mediated through increased inflammation, liver fibrosis, IGF-1, or sex steroids.

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