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 t
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