Liver Disease

Could Biomarkers Predict NAFLD in HIV Patients?

Certain biomarkers could be used to identify people living with HIV (PWH) who are at increased risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to recent research.

“PWH suffer a disproportionate burden of NAFLD compared to HIV-negative persons which confers higher rates of morbidity and mortality through the complications of cirrhosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” the authors wrote.

In order to explore potential biomarkers for the accumulation of liver fat among these individuals, the researchers conducted a study involving 109 PWH who were on long-term viral suppression. All participants underwent non-contrasted chest and abdominal CT scans and had plasma samples collected following an overnight fast.

Overall, lower levels of phosphocholines were associated with lower hepatic attenuation, and higher abundance of triglycerides was associated with higher levels of hepatic steatosis. Further, the lipidome profile among participants with greater hepatic steatosis was shown to be similar to those seen in participants with higher visceral adipose tissue and pericardial fat volume, but not in those with higher abdominal subcutaneous tissue.

“PWH with hepatic steatosis and higher visceral adiposity had lower abundances of plasma phosphocholines and increased abundances of triglyceride species. Intestinal dysbiosis has previously been shown to be related to impairment of phosphocholine metabolism. Future studies will determine whether changes in the intestinal microbiome contribute to a pathogenic plasma lipidome in PWH with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and ectopic fat deposition in other tissues,” the researchers concluded.

—Michael Potts


Gabriel CL, Ye F, Wanjalla C, et al. Lower plasma phosphocholine abundance is associated with NAFLD in PWH. Paper presented at Virtual CROI 2021. March 6-10, 2021.