Vitamin A status in HIV infection

Brian J. Ward, Jean H. Humphrey, Lilian Clement, Richard E. Chaisson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


HIV+ individuals may be at particular risk for deficiency of vitamin A, a critical micronutrient in the maintenance of epithelial barriers and normal immune function. We studied 25 HIV+ outpatients with CD4+ T cell counts less than 800: 5 had AIDS, 2 had diarrhea and weight loss and 18 were asymptomatic. Vitamin A status was assessed with a battery of tests; conjunctival impression cytology (CIC), relative dose responses (RDR) and serum retinol and retinol binding protein (RBP) levels. We also measured mitogen-induced lymphoproliferation and in vitro cytokine production (soluble IL-2 receptor (sIL-2R) and interferon-γ (IFN-γ)) with and without supplemental retinol. Eight subjects (32%) had one or more tests suggestive of vitamin A deficiency: serum retinol levels <1.05 μM/L (4), abnormal CIC (6), abnormal RDR (1), RBP <7 (1). Correspondence between the various measures of vitamin status was limited but subjects with abnormal CIC tended to have lower serum retinol levels than those with normal CIC (1.54±0.30 vs 2.20±0.21 μM/L; P=.15). 60% of subjects with AIDS had abnormal CIC (vs 17% in non-AIDs subjects; P<.04). Retinol levels in subjects with CD4+ counts ≤300 tended to be lower than in those with CD4+ counts >300 (1.80±0.24 vs 2.20±0.24 μM/L; P=.15). Subjects taking a daily multivitamin containing modest amounts of vitamin A had higher serum retinol levels than those taking no supplements (2.50±0.24 vs 1.47±0.21 μM/L; P<.009), an association which remained after stratification by CD4+ cell counts. In vitro proliferation and cytokine production were not correlated with measures of vitamin A status. Retinol supplementation in cultures with the lowest baseline cytokine levels increased production of sIL-2R (>27-fold; P<.03) and IFN-γ (>3.1-fold; P<.02) regardless of apparent vitamin A status. These preliminary observations suggest that vitamin A status may deteriorate with advancing HIV and that even modest doses of vitamin A can have significant impact on serum retinol levels. Increased cytokine production with supplemental retinol in vitro demonstrates that lymphocytes can be retinoid responsive despite apparently normal vitamin A status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-166
Number of pages10
JournalNutrition Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1993


  • HIV
  • IL-2
  • Interferon-γ
  • Vitamin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Vitamin A status in HIV infection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this