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HIV and Hepatitis C-Coinfected Patients Have Lower Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Despite Higher Proprotein Convertase Subtilisin Kexin 9 (PCSK9): An Apparent "PCSK9-Lipid Paradox".

  • Author(s): Kohli, Payal
  • Ganz, Peter
  • Ma, Yifei
  • Scherzer, Rebecca
  • Hur, Sophia
  • Weigel, Bernard
  • Grunfeld, Carl
  • Deeks, Steven
  • Wasserman, Scott
  • Scott, Rob
  • Hsue, Priscilla Y
  • et al.


Proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and improve outcomes in the general population. HIV-infected individuals are at increased risk for cardiovascular events and have high rates of dyslipidemia and hepatitis C virus (HCV) coinfection, making PCSK9 inhibition a potentially attractive therapy.

Methods and results

We studied 567 participants from a clinic-based cohort to compare PCSK9 levels in patients with HIV/HCV coinfection (n=110) with those with HIV infection alone (n=385) and with uninfected controls (n=72). The mean age was 49 years, and the median LDL-C level was 100 mg/dL (IQR 77-124 mg/dL); 21% were taking statins. The 3 groups had similar rates of traditional risk factors. Total cholesterol, LDL-C, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were lower in coinfected patients compared with controls (P<0.001). PCSK9 was 21% higher in HIV/HCV-coinfected patients versus controls (95% CI 9-34%, P<0.001) and 11% higher in coinfected individuals versus those with HIV infection alone (95% CI 3-20%, P=0.008). After adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors, HIV/HCV coinfection remained significantly associated with 20% higher PCSK9 levels versus controls (95% CI 8-33%, P=0.001). Interleukin-6 levels increased in a stepwise fashion from controls (lowest) to HIV-infected to HIV/HCV-coinfected individuals (highest) and correlated with PCSK9 (r=0.11, P=0.018).


Despite having lower LDL-C, circulating PCSK9 levels were increased in patients coinfected with HIV and HCV in parallel with elevations in the inflammatory, proatherogenic cytokine interleukin-6. Clinical trials should be conducted to determine the efficacy of targeted PCSK9 inhibition in the setting of HIV/HCV coinfection.

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