Institute of Clinical Infectious Diseases, Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Largo Agostino Gemelli 8, Rome, 00168, Italy.
Our aim was to explore the interplay between human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in the expression of cognitive disorders.
We performed a multi-centre cross-sectional study, enrolling three groups of asymptomatic outpatients matched for age and education: (1) HIV mono-infected; (2) HCV mono-infected; (3) HIV-HCV co-infected. All subjects were subjected to the Zung depression scale and a comprehensive neuropsychological battery.
A total of 50 patients for each group were enrolled. Patients in the three groups did not significantly differ in the main common demographic and clinical characteristics, except for a lower proportion of past injecting drug use (IDU) in group 1 (4 %) in comparison to groups 2 (38 %, p < 0.001) and 3 (78 %, p < 0.001), a longer duration of HIV infection in group 3 in comparison to group 1 (p < 0.001) and a longer duration of HCV infection in group 3 in comparison to group 2 (p = 0.028). Overall, 39.3 % of patients showed minor cognitive impairment, with a higher proportion in group 3 (54 %) when compared to groups 1 (28 %, p = 0.015) or 2 (36 %, p = 0.108). Patients in group 3 [odds ratio (OR) 3.35, p = 0.038 when compared to group 1] and those with higher depression scores (OR 1.05, p = 0.017) showed an increased risk of cognitive impairment after adjusting for education and past injection drug use. In particular, group 3 showed worse performance in psychomotor speed tasks when compared to group 1 (p = 0.033).
A worse cognitive performance in HIV-HCV co-infected patients was observed, suggesting an additive role of the two viruses in the pathogenesis of cognitive disorders.