Researchers from Germany have found that low levels of vitamin D are associated with high levels of hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication. Findings published online in Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, suggest seasonal fluctuations in vitamin D and HBV levels point to a link in these variables among patients with chronic HBV.
While highly effective vaccines are available, HBV still remains one of the most significant infectious diseases worldwide.
In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that HBV is 50 to 100 times more infectious than human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Furthermore WHO reports that two billion individuals have been infected with HBV, which is responsible for nearly 600,000 deaths each year.
In the U.S. the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 1.4 million Americans are living with chronic HBV.
“Vitamin D helps maintain a healthy immune system and there is evidence of its role in inflammatory and metabolic liver disease, including infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV),” explains lead investigator Dr. Christian Lange from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Hospital in Frankfurt. “However, the relationship between vitamin D metabolism and chronic HBV infection remains unknown and is the focus of our present study.”
Between January 2009 and December 2010, the team recruited 203 patients with chronic HBV who had not previously received treatment for their infection. Levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D were measured from each participant. Patients co-infected with HCV, HIV, or hepatitis D; those with excessive alcohol use; and those with liver cancer or other malignancies were excluded.
Results show that
- 34% of participants had severe vitamin D deficiency (less than 10 ng/mL),
- 47% with vitamin D insufficiency (between 10-20 ng/mL) and
- 19% had normal levels of vitamin D (greater than 20 ng/mL).
Further analyses indicate that the concentration of HBV in the blood, known as viral load, was a strong indicator of low vitamin D levels. In patients with HBV DNA less than 2000 IU/mL versus 2000 IU/mL or more, the levels of vitamin D were 17 and 11 ng/mL, respectively.
Researchers also determined that patients with the hepatitis B antigen (HBeAg) had lower levels of vitamin D than HBeAg negative participants. Inverse seasonal fluctuations between vitamin D and HBV levels were noted, which further suggests a relationship between the two variables.
“Our data confirm an association between low levels of vitamin D and high concentrations of HBV in the blood,” concludes Dr. Lange. “These findings differ from previous research of patients with chronic hepatitis C, which found no connection between vitamin D levels and concentration of HCV in the blood.” The authors propose further investigation of vitamin D as a therapeutic intervention for controlling HBV.
Vitamin D is an important immune modulator which plays an emerging role in inflammatory and metabolic liver diseases, including infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV). In contrast, the relationship between vitamin D metabolism and chronic hepatitis B is less well characterized. Therefore, we quantified 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D3 ] serum levels in a cohort of 203 treatment-naïve patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and tested for their association with clinical parameters of chronic hepatitis B. 69 (34%), 95 (47%), and 39 (19%) out of 203 patients had severe vitamin D deficiency [25(OH)D3 <10ng/mL], vitamin D insufficiency [25(OH)D3 ≥10ng/mL and <20ng/mL], or adequate vitamin D serum levels [25(OH)D3 ≥20ng/mL], respectively. In both uni- and multivariate analyses, HBV DNA viral load (log10 IU/mL) was a strong predictor of low 25(OH)D3 serum levels (p=0.0007 and p=0.000048, respectively), and vice versa.
Mean 25(OH)D3 serum concentrations in patients with HBV DNA <2000 IU/mL vs. ≥2000 IU/mL were 17 vs. 11 ng/mL, respectively (p<0.00001).
In addition, hepatitis B early antigen (HBeAg) positive patients had lower 25(OH)D3 serum levels than HBeAg negative patients (p=0.0013). Finally, 25(OH)D3 and HBV DNA serum levels showed inverse seasonal fluctuations.
Conclusions: Low 25(OH)D3 serum levels are associated with high levels of HBV replication in patients with chronic hepatitis B. This represents a major difference to chronic hepatitis C, were numerous previous studies have shown a lacking correlation between HCV viral load vitamin D serum levels. Inverse seasonal fluctuations of 25(OH)D3 and HBV DNA serum levels are suggestive for a functional relationship between both variables. (HEPATOLOGY 2013.).
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Which includes following charts from 2011 presentation by Dr. Grimes
Horizontal axis = individual patient - sorted by vitamin D level: clearly low vitamin D associated with HBV
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The following is one of the many diagrams of Vitamin D in the body
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