HIV and Hepatitis B Combination Therapy More Effectively Treats HBV Infection, Delays Liver Complications

July 20, 2009

Highly active antiretroviral therapy used to treat both HIV and hepatitis B "helps to better control" the HBV infection and may delay or even prevent liver complications, according to new research.

Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) used to treat both HIV and hepatitis B (HBV) “helps to better control” the HBV infection and may delay or even prevent liver complications, according to new research from Wake Forest University.

Researchers at the university’s medical school found that a combination of HAART and HBV treatment over a greater period of time “was significantly associated” with a reduction, or, in some cases, clearance, of chronic HBV infections. An additional finding of the study showed that patients with higher levels of a common liver enzyme at the start of co HIV/HBV infection treatment were at an increased risk for a cirrhosis diagnosis “within the first few years of follow-up.”

“One of the most interesting findings was the confirmation that a simple marker, such as transaminase levels before treatment, is useful in identifying patients at higher risk of developing HBV-related complications in a few years,” said lead researcher Marina Núñez, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Section on Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at Wake Forest’s medical school.

The researchers examined the medical records of 72 patients, most of whom were black males with a median age of 39 and advanced HIV disease at the time of diagnosis. In addition, all of the patients reviewed were positive for HIV antibody and hepatitis B, and had at least three months of follow-up care on record. HAART, in addition to drugs “effective in treating HBV,” was given to 64 of the 72 patients for a median time frame of one year.

Núñez said that findings of the study “stress the importance of good control of the HIV and HBV infections through maintained compliance with HAART including drugs to treat HBV.”

“In HBV-HIV patients with the elevated enzyme levels that signal liver damage, it is even more important to control the HBV infection in an attempt to decrease the risks of complications,” Núñez continued. “Those patients should also be more closely screened for liver complications.”