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Statins May Lower Markers of Immune Activation in HIV

High-dose atorvastatin has no effect on HIV-1 RNA levels, but reduces activated T lymphocytes

THURSDAY, March 10 (HealthDay News) -- Atorvastatin use decreases cellular markers of immune activation and inflammation in patients infected with HIV type 1 (HIV-1), though it does not affect plasma HIV-1 RNA levels, according to a study published online Feb. 15 in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Anuradha Ganesan, M.D., of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues investigated the effect of atorvastatin on levels of HIV-1 RNA and, secondarily, on cellular markers of immune activation. Twenty-two patients with HIV-1 who were not on antiretroviral therapy and who did not have elevated cholesterol levels, were randomly assigned to receive either 80 mg of atorvastatin or a placebo daily for eight weeks. Participants then switched treatment groups after a four- to six-week washout phase. Their HIV-1 RNA levels were measured, and their immune activation was evaluated by expression of CD38 and HLA-DR on CD4+ and CD8+ T cells.

The researchers found that, while the HIV-1 RNA levels were unaffected, use of atorvastatin resulted in a modest, but significant, reduction in immune activation. Statin use decreased the circulating proportions of CD4+ HLA-DR+, CD8+ HLA-DR+, and CD8+ HLA-DR+ CD38+ T cells. There was no attendant reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.

"Our pilot study was not designed to demonstrate clinical benefit; large studies with longer durations of follow-up that are designed to evaluate the potential effects of statins are needed to investigate any clinical benefit of this drug for HIV-infected patients," the authors write.

One co-author was employed by Merck Research Laboratories.

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