Background: Advanced HIV infection can result in lipoatrophy and wasting, even in the absence of ongoing opportunistic infections, suggesting that HIV may directly affect adipose tissue amount and distribution.
Methods: We assessed the relationship of fat (measured using anthropometry, DEXA, MRI scans) or markers related to glucose and lipid metabolism with viral load in a cross-sectional sample of 83 antiretroviral-naïve HIV-1-infected South African women. A multivariable linear model was fitted to log10VL to assess the combined effect of these variables.
Results: In addition to higher T cell activation, women with viral load greater than the population median had lower waist circumference, body mass index and subcutaneous abdominal fat, as well as lower serum leptin. We demonstrate that leptin serum levels are inversely associated with viral replication, independent of the amount of adipose tissue. This association is maintained after adjusting for multiple variables associated with disease progression (i.e., cellular activation and innate immunity effector levels).
Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that serum leptin levels are inversely associated with viral replication, independent of disease progression: we postulate that leptin may affect viral replication.