Classical and emerging roles of vitamin D in hepatitis C virus infection

Julio A. Gutierrez, Neil Parikh, Andrea D. Branch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


According to the Institute of Medicine, the risk of clinically significant vitamin D deficiency increases at 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 20 ng/mL. By this standard, most cirrhotic hepatitis C virus- (HCV-) positive patients and many noncirrhotic patients are vitamin D-deficient. The high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among HCV patients is a cause for concern for several specific reasons. Classic studies established the importance of vitamin D and calcium in maintaining bone. Vitamin D's beneficial effects on bone are likely to be vital for HCV-infected patients because these individuals have a high prevalence of low bone mineral density. Many pharmaceutical agents reduce bone density and exposure to these drugs may increase bone disease in HCV-positive patients. Bone loss occurs following liver transplantation and bone density is often low in patients with HIV/HCV co-infection who are on combination antiretroviral therapy. Some evidence suggests that ribavirin reduces bone density, underscoring the special need to monitor vitamin D in patients receiving HCV treatment and to prescribe supplements, as appropriate. In addition to its role in calcium metabolism, vitamin D is also an immune modulator that reduces inflammation while enhancing protective immune responses. Higher vitamin D levels are associated with less liver fibrosis and less inflammation in HCV patients. Recent studies show that low vitamin D levels are associated with treatment failure among HCV-infected patients receiving pegylated-interferon and ribavirin. If confirmed, these findings will provide an additional reason to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D. Information about how to monitor vitamin D status and how to use vitamin D supplements most effectively in HCV-infected patients is provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-398
Number of pages12
JournalSeminars in Liver Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011


  • Hepatitis C virus
  • bone mineral density
  • fibrosis
  • fracture
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • interferon
  • ribavirin
  • sustained virologic response
  • vitamin D


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