Vitamin D may improve bone health in those taking anti-HIV drug

January 11, 2012 By Robert Bock and John McGrath

Vitamin D may help prevent hormonal changes that can lead to bone loss among those being treated for HIV with the drug tenofovir, according to the results of a National Institutes of Health network study of adolescents with HIV.

Tenofovir is widely used to treat . However, the drug causes symptoms that resemble those of ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-QuickFacts, causing bones to lose calcium and reducing bone density. The study found that large monthly doses of vitamin D reduced blood levels of a hormone that stimulates from bones.

"What we've found suggests vitamin D could be used to counteract one of the major concerns about using tenofovir to treat HIV," said Rohan Hazra, M.D., of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal AIDS Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH institute that funds the networks. "People in their teens and twenties may be on anti-HIV treatment for decades to come, so finding a safe and inexpensive way to protect their long-term would be a major advance."

The findings were published online in .

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium to build bones. When the body is deficient in vitamin D, levels of a hormone called parathyroid hormone rise. This rise triggers activity that draws calcium from bones. As a result, the bones become more fragile and can break more easily. Parathyroid hormone also tends to be elevated in people taking tenofovir, whether or not they have sufficient vitamin D.

Because parathyroid hormone levels are elevated in people taking tenofovir in much the same way as they are in people with vitamin D deficiency, the researchers theorized that vitamin D might counteract the bone-depleting effects of tenofovir.

The study was conducted by first author Peter L. Havens, M.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Dr. Hazra; Kathleen Mulligan, Ph.D., of the University of California at San Francisco; and other researchers affiliated with the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN) and the International Maternal–Pediatric–Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT) Group.

In addition to funding from NICHD, funding was also provided by the National Center for Research Resources, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute of Mental Health.

About 200 18- to 25-year-olds on antiretroviral therapy took part in the study. Study participants included young adults taking tenofovir and those receiving other forms of anti-HIV treatment. Each month, the adolescents and young adults in the study took a 50,000-unit dose of vitamin D or placebo. At the end of the three months, parathyroid hormone levels had fallen about 14 percent among participants taking tenofovir and vitamin D but remained unchanged in participants taking other kinds of anti-HIV medication. However, youth taking tenofovir still had higher parathyroid hormone levels than those on other anti-HIV drugs. The researchers don’t know if longer treatment with vitamin D would further reduce parathyroid hormone levels.

The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 600 units. The authors noted that they observed no adverse effects from the vitamin D treatment during the 3 months of this study.

The researchers are now making plans for a two-year follow-up study to examine the longer-term safety of vitamin D in a similar group of HIV-infected youth taking antiretroviral regimens containing , and to determine if the changes in hormone result in improvements in .

Explore further: NIH modifies 'VOICE' HIV prevention study in women

Related Stories

NIH modifies 'VOICE' HIV prevention study in women

September 28, 2011
A large-scale clinical trial evaluating whether daily use of an oral tablet or vaginal gel containing antiretroviral drugs can prevent HIV infection in women is being modified because an interim review found that the study ...

Obese adolescents benefit from high-dose vitamin D supplements

November 1, 2011
Vitamin D deficiency is common in Americans, and especially in overweight and obese adolescents, according to the National Institutes of Health. University of Missouri researchers have found that providing obese adolescents ...

Oral steroids linked to severe vitamin D deficiency in nationwide study

September 29, 2011
People taking oral steroids are twice as likely as the general population to have severe vitamin D deficiency, according to a study of more than 31,000 children and adults by scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine ...

Recommended for you

Paris spotlight on latest in AIDS science

July 21, 2017
Some 6,000 HIV experts gather in Paris from Sunday to report advances in AIDS science as fading hopes of finding a cure push research into new fields.

Scientists elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV in calves

July 20, 2017
Scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health have achieved a significant step forward, eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) to HIV by immunizing calves. The findings offer insights for HIV vaccine ...

Heart toxin reveals new insights into HIV-1 integration in T cell genome

July 20, 2017
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 may have evolved to integrate its genetic material into certain immune-cell-activating genes in humans, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

Scientists capture first high-resolution image of key HIV protein transitional state

July 13, 2017
A new, three-dimensional snapshot of HIV demonstrates the radical structural transformations that enable the virus to recognize and infect host cells, according to a new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute ...

Barrier to autoimmune disease may open door to HIV, study suggests

July 11, 2017
Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine have discovered that a process that protects the body from autoimmune disease also prevents the immune system from generating antibodies that can neutralize the ...

Team tests best delivery mode for potential HIV vaccine

June 20, 2017
For decades, HIV has successfully evaded all efforts to create an effective vaccine but researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) are steadily inching ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.