Prevalence, Predictors, and Severity of Lean Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Patients Living With Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Dec 17;71(10):e694-e701. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa430.


Background: The burden of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is growing in people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). NAFLD is associated with obesity; however, it can occur in normoweight (lean) patients. We aimed to investigate lean NAFLD in patients living with HIV.

Methods: We included patients living with HIV mono-infection from 3 prospective cohorts. NAFLD was diagnosed by transient elastography (TE) and defined as controlled attenuation parameter ≥248 dB/m, in absence of alcohol abuse. Lean NAFLD was defined when a body mass index was <25 kg/m2. Significant liver fibrosis was defined as TE ≥7.1 kPa. The presence of diabetes, hypertension, or hyperlipidemia defined metabolically abnormal patients.

Results: We included 1511 patients, of whom 57.4% were lean. The prevalence of lean NAFLD patients in the whole cohort was 13.9%. NAFLD affected 24.2% of lean patients. The proportions of lean NAFLD patients who were metabolically abnormal or had elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) were higher than among those who were lean patients without NAFLD (61.9% vs 48.9% and 36.7% vs 24.2%, respectively). Lean NAFLD patients had a higher prevalence of significant liver fibrosis than lean patients without NAFLD (15.7% vs 7.6%, respectively). After adjusting for sex, ethnicity, hypertension, CD4 cell count, nadir CD4 <200µ/L, and time since HIV diagnosis, predictors of NAFLD in lean patients were age (adjusted OR [aOR], 1.29; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-1.59), high triglycerides (aOR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.11-1.63), and high ALT (aOR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.05-1.26), while a high level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was protective (aOR, 0.45; 95% CI, .26-.77).

Conclusions: NAFLD affects 1 in 4 lean patients living with HIV mono-infection. Investigations for NAFLD should be proposed in older patients with dyslipidemia and elevated ALT, even if normoweight.

Keywords: alanine aminotransferase; controlled attenuation parameter; dyslipidemia; liver fibrosis; transient elastography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • HIV
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / epidemiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / complications
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies