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

January 11, 2012 By Robert Bock and John McGrath, National Institutes of Health

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

War in Ukraine has escalated HIV spread in the country: study

January 15, 2018
Conflict in Ukraine has increased the risk of HIV outbreaks throughout the country as displaced HIV-infected people move from war-affected regions to areas with higher risk of transmission, according to analysis by scientists.

Researchers offer new model for uncovering true HIV mortality rates in Zambia

January 12, 2018
A new study that seeks to better ascertain HIV mortality rates in Zambia could provide a model for improved national and regional surveillance approaches, and ultimately, more effective HIV treatment strategies.

New drug capsule may allow weekly HIV treatment

January 9, 2018
Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a capsule that can deliver a week's worth of HIV drugs in a single dose. This advance could make it much easier for patients to adhere to the strict schedule ...

New long-acting, less-toxic HIV drug suppresses virus in humanized mice

January 8, 2018
A team of Yale researchers tested a new chemical compound that suppresses HIV, protects immune cells, and remains effective for weeks with a single dose. In animal experiments, the compound proved to be a promising new candidate ...

Usage remains low for pill that can prevent HIV infection

January 8, 2018
From gritty neighborhoods in New York and Los Angeles to clinics in Kenya and Brazil, health workers are trying to popularize a pill that has proven highly effective in preventing HIV but which—in their view—remains woefully ...

Researchers find clues to AIDS resistance in sooty mangabey genome

January 3, 2018
Peaceful co-existence, rather than war: that's how sooty mangabeys, a monkey species found in West Africa, handle infection by SIV, a relative of HIV, and avoid developing AIDS-like disease.

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.