Higher iron stores and the HFE 187C>G variant delay onset of peripheral neuropathy during combination antiretroviral therapy

Asha R. Kallianpur, Wanqing Wen, Angelika L. Erwin, David B. Clifford, Todd Hulgan, Gregory K. Robbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective People with HIV (PWH) continue to experience sensory neuropathy and neuropathic pain in the combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) era for unclear reasons. This study evaluated the role of iron in a previously reported association of iron-loading hemochromatosis (HFE) gene variants with reduced risk of neuropathy in PWH who received more neurotoxic cART, since an iron-related mechanism also might be relevant to neuropathic symptoms in PWH living in low-resource settings today. Design This time-to-event analysis addressed the impact of systemic iron levels on the rapidity of neuropathy onset in PWH who initiated cART. Methods Soluble transferrin receptor (sTFR), the sTFR-ferritin index of iron stores, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) levels were determined in stored baseline sera from participants of known HFE genotype from AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) Study 384, a multicenter randomized clinical trial that evaluated cART strategies. Associations with incident neuropathy were evaluated in proportional-hazards, time-to-event regression models, adjusting for potential confounders. Results Of 151 eligible participants with stored serum who were included in the original genetic study, 43 had cART-associated neuropathy; 108 had sufficient serum for analysis, including 30 neuropathy cases. Carriers of HFE variants had higher systemic iron (lower sTFR and sTFR-ferritin index) and lower hsCRP levels than non-carriers (all p<0.05). Higher sTFR or iron stores, the HFE 187C>G variant, and lower baseline hsCRP were associated with significantly delayed neuropathy in self-reported whites (n = 28; all p-values<0.05), independent of age, CD4+ T-cell count, plasma HIV RNA, and cART regimen. Conclusions Higher iron stores, the HFE 187C>G variant, and lower hsCRP predicted delayed onset of neuropathy among self-reported white individuals initating cART. These findings require confirmation but may have implications for cART in HIV+ populations in areas with high endemic iron deficiency, especially those PWH in whom older, more neurotoxic antiretroviral drugs are occasionally still used.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0239758
JournalPloS one
Issue number10 October
StatePublished - Oct 2020


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