Heavy alcohol drinking causes alterations in the metabolism of fatty acids and zinc that participate in inflammation and liver injury. HIV infection has been reported to cause dysregulated polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) and zinc metabolism. In this pilot study, we examined the role of dysregulated PUFA metabolism and zinc deficiency in the liver injury occurring in heavy drinkers with early-stage HIV diagnosis. Fourteen heavy drinking alcohol-dependent (AD) patients [seven with treatment-naive HIV diagnosis (AD+HIV) and seven without HIV infection (AD)] participated in this study. Liver injury, serum zinc, PUFAs, viral load, CD4+ count, and drinking measures using lifetime drinking history (LTDH), and timeline follow-back past 90 days (TLFB90) were evaluated. Liver injury was also assessed in seven age- and gender-matched socially drinking HIV treatment-naive patients who served as disease controls. HIV viral load by itself did not show any correlation with liver injury. Liver enzymes were significantly elevated in both AD+HIV and AD patients, and AD+HIV patients had significantly higher alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels than did AD patients, even with lower drinking. Serum zinc was significantly lower in AD+HIV patients. Only AD+HIV patients showed a significant elevation in linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) levels. Serum zinc and ALT, LA and ALT, and ALA and ALT were significantly associated only in AD+HIV patients. The association between LA and ALT showed a higher effect than did the ALA and ALT association in the AD+HIV patients. Interestingly, AD+HIV subjects (who drank less), nevertheless, showed more liver injury compared with AD patients, who reported heavier drinking. We speculate that the underlying proinflammatory response resulting from zinc deficiency and an elevation in serum LA likely contributed to liver injury in AD+HIV patients, even with a comparatively lower degree of heavy drinking.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00106106.
Keywords: CD4; HIV; PUFAs; alcohol dependent; liver injury; serum zinc.