Role of cytokines in AIDS wasting

Nutrition. 1998 Nov-Dec;14(11-12):853-63. doi: 10.1016/s0899-9007(98)00108-7.


There is now a large literature implicating cytokines in the development of wasting and cachexia commonly observed in a variety of pathophysiologic conditions. In the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), cytokines elicited by primary and secondary infections seem to exert subtle and sustained effects on behavioral, hormonal, and metabolic axes, and their combined effects on appetite and metabolism have been postulated to drive wasting. However, correlations of increased blood levels of a particular cytokine with wasting in AIDS have not been consistent observations, perhaps because cytokines act principally as paracrine and autocrine hormones, as well as indirectly by activating other systems. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the catabolic effects of cytokines in clearly needed if more efficacious strategies are to be developed for the prevention and treatment of wasting in AIDS. In this review we first examine the interacting factors contributing to the AIDS wasting syndrome. We then analyze the complex and overlapping role of cytokines in the pathophysiology of this condition, and put forward a number of hypotheses to explain some of the most important features of this syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cachexia / etiology
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Endocrine Glands / physiopathology
  • HIV Infections / metabolism
  • HIV Infections / physiopathology
  • HIV Wasting Syndrome / immunology
  • HIV Wasting Syndrome / metabolism
  • HIV Wasting Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Humans


  • Cytokines