Reversal of cachexia in patients treated with potent antiretroviral therapy

D. Scevola, A. Di Matteo, F. Uberti, G. Minoia, F. Poletti, A. Faga, B. A. Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The introduction of HAART has changed the nutritional status of HIV patients. In the pre-protease inhibitor (PI) era, more than 60% of HIV- positive persons presented with protein energy malnutrition (PEM) and vitamin and mineral deficit. This caused progressive physical-metabolic wasting (wasting syndrome/cachexia) and increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections and drug toxicity. PEM was a concurrent cause in 80% of deaths attributed to AIDS. Since 1996, the year in which PIs were introduced, the number of patients dying as a result of AIDS has decreased by two thirds, and cachexia is no longer the AIDS terminal phase in developed countries. But different patterns of nutritional status changes have appeared in association with the use of newer anti-HIV therapies and with longer survival of HIV- infected patients. A new clinical and laboratory syndrome - lipodystrophy syndrome - now affects patients receiving PI-based therapy. This syndrome consists of changes in body shape that are caused by an abnormal redistribution of fat. Fat accumulates in the abdominal area (truncal and visceral obesity), in the axillary pads (bilateral symmetric lipomatosis), and in the dorsocervical pads ('buffalo hump,' 'bull neck') but decreases in the legs, arms, and nasolabial and cheek pads (peripheral lipodystrophy). Hyperlipidemia and insulin resistance are also frequently present (metabolic syndrome X). Pathogenic mechanisms of lipid and fat tissue disturbances are discussed in this article, and the clinical approach to patient management and therapeutic options for lipodystrophy and lipid dysmetabolism is evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-375
Number of pages11
JournalAIDS Reader
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Cachexia
  • Fat tissue
  • Lipodystrophy syndrome
  • Malnutrition
  • Protease inhibitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Medicine(all)


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