Hepatitis C virus (HCV) coinfection, as well as an accumulation of viral and bacterial infections, was independently associated with the risk of developing a cardiovascular event in HIV-infected patients, according to the results of a large retrospective analysis.

heart EKG superimposed Graça Victoria/Thinkstockphotos.com

The study comprised 823 patients at a single institution during 1982-2018. The researchers assessed those patients who had at least two visits to the HIV clinic, data concerning herpes varicella zoster virus (VZV) reactivation, and bacterial infections. Data on HCV coinfection status (as determined by HCV antibodies and qualitative HCV-PCR) were also available, according to Miguel Genebat, MD, of Virgen del Rocío University Hospital, Seville, Spain, and colleagues.

During the observational period, 58 patients (7%) experienced a cardiovascular event at a median age of 47 years. Most of these patients (50, 86%) had effective HIV treatment, with their viral load being persistently undetectable.

In terms of standard cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, hypercholesterolemia was present in 31 patients (53%) and only 11 subjects (19%) had diabetes. This left 24 “low-risk” subjects, 5 of whom (21%) developed recurrent CVD and 8 of whom (33%) died after the development of cardiovascular disease.

The most frequent cardiovascular event was acute coronary syndrome (ACS), developed by 38 patients, with 14 (24%) of these individuals having recurrent CVD events. Among the 58 patients who experienced a cardiovascular event, 21 (36%) died, 17 from cardiovascular disease, 2 from cancer, and 2 each from acute bacterial infection and end-stage liver disease.

The researchers examined other variables potentially associated with the development of cardiovascular disease. They performed a multivariate analysis considering the added burden of infections and found that advanced age at HIV-1 diagnosis (OR, 1.07), a T-CD4 nadir of less than 200 cells/mcL (OR, 2.01), a diagnosis of HIV prior to combined antiretroviral therapy availability in 1996 (OR, 2.35), and cumulative infections greater than 2 (OR, 3.63), were all significantly and independently associated with the risk of developing a cardiovascular event.

They also found that HCV coinfection (OR, 2.84) on its own in simple multivariate analysis increased the risk of developing a CVD event in HIV-infected subjects. There was insufficient power to tease out the individual risk of other infections, such as herpes zoster virus and bacterial infections, hence the use of cumulative infections reported above.

The researchers concluded that potential strategies to minimize cardiovascular risk in these subjects could be treating HCV coinfection in all subjects independently of liver fibrosis stage, starting cART as soon as possible, and immunizing for those infections for which effective vaccine are available.

The authors reported that they had no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Genebat M. et al. Antiviral Res. 2019 Sep;169:104527.