Background: Nutrient malabsorption is a negative prognostic factor in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and recent studies have shown that pancreatic insufficiency is a codetermining factor of malabsorption.
Aims: To evaluate the effectiveness of open-label oral pancreatic enzyme supplementation therapy in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patients with fat malabsorption.
Patients and methods: Twenty-four consecutive patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection and fat malabsorption were recruited (11 males, 13 females; median age, 9.1 years). Faecal fat loss was evaluated by steatocrit assay at entry to the study (T-0), after 2 weeks (T-1) without pancreatic enzyme treatment and after a further 2 weeks (T-2) of treatment with pancreatic extracts (Creon 10 000 at a dose of 1000 units of lipase per gram of ingested dietary fat). Faecal elastase-1 and chymotrypsin were assayed at entry.
Results: Six patients (25%) had abnormally low elastase-1 and/or chymotrypsin faecal concentration. In all patients, steatocrit values were elevated at both T-0 and T-1. Five patients proved intolerant to pancreatic enzyme treatment because of the onset of abdominal pain, and therapy was discontinued. In the 19 patients who concluded the study, steatocrit values during pancreatic enzyme treatment (T-2) were significantly lower than at entry (P < 0.0001). At T-2, in eight of 19 patients, steatocrit values were within the normal limit and the frequency of cases cured or improved on pancreatic enzyme therapy (at T-2) was significantly higher than that observed during the previous study period without enzyme treatment (T-1) (P < 0.01). A positive significant correlation was found between steatocrit values at entry and the Centers for Disease Control class (P < 0.0005); also, the decrease in steatocrit values during pancreatic enzyme therapy (difference between steatocrit value at T-2 and steatocrit value at T-0) positively correlated with the Centers for Disease Control class (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: This pilot, open-label study showed that pancreatic enzyme supplementation therapy is highly effective in reducing faecal fat loss in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients with nutrient malabsorption. Further double-blind studies must be undertaken to verify these results and, if they are confirmed, pancreatic enzymes can be added to our weapons in the fight against human immunodeficiency virus-associated nutrient malabsorption.