How VITAMIN D Deficiency Affects the immune response in HIV patients

vitamin D deficiency
VITAMIN D Deficiency

How VITAMIN D Deficiency Affects the immune response in HIV patients


Vitamin D deficiency is a common issue in patients diagnosed with chronic conditions including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection. Research estimates that vitamin D deficiency in HIV infected people range between 12-100% (Lake & Adams, 2011). Generally, vitamin D deficiency is associated with various risk factors including age, race, overweight, geographical location and exposure to some antiretroviral therapy medication.

However, there is little research on the role of vitamin D in human immune system. This systematic review explores in depth analysis of on the factors associated with vitamin D deficiency. The paper also explores the role of vitamin D on the immune system (both adaptive and innate immune system).

However Ginde, Liu and Camargo(2009) believes, Vitamin D deficiency and supplementation in patients diagnosed with HIV is not well understood. The rationale of this dissertation is to provide to review current information on the role of vitamin D on HIV patient’s immune system.  The aim of this literature review is to understand the impact of Vitamin D in HIV patients.

The key words that were used during literature search were structured the dissertation topic which was to find the impact of vitamin D on HIV patients. This included; Vitamin D, HIV, Vitamin D deficiency, Vitamin D role in innate immune system, Vitamin D in adaptive immune system, ; disease progression, pathogenesis of HIV, CD4, CD4+ T cells, CD$ count, Vitamin D supplementation, CD4 percent, role of Vitamin D,25(OH)D and the immune system, and factors that influence Vitamin D levels in HIV patients

Current strategies to help manage HIV

Regardless of the fact of progress in antiretroviral treatment (ART) in the last 10 years, HIV diagnosis is still very high. Recent studies stress on the importance of nutrition in HIV patients, especially the Vitamin D. Most of HIV patients are diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency. The deficiency has been shown to affect the immune cells (B cells and T cells) because the immunologic cells may not metabolize the active part of the vitamin D which is D3. There are many factors that contribute to vitamin D deficiency such as skin colour and diet. These limitations will be discussed in more detail in chapter 2.

 Sun  (2010) suggests, vitamin D has an impact in anti-inflammation and anti-infection which has newly founded and important movement for calcitriol receptor . Salahuddin (2013) suggests that vitamin D increases protective immune responses to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) by reducing Interferon-gamma (IFN-g) and suppressing diseases linked with inflammation in the host. This study suggests, increased vitamin D dosage helped TB patients and enhanced their host immune response compared to deficient vitamin D levels. This suggests vitamin D can be used to treat TB. Vitamin D deficiency causes patients to be more susceptible to autoimmune conditions such as tuberculosis (Norman & Henry 2006; Aranow,  2016).

Vitamin D deficiency in HIV populations

The published rate of associated with Vitamin D deficiency/ insufficiency in HIV infected people range between 12% and 100% posted by Lake & Adams(2011). Generally Lake & Adams, (2011) suggest the rates of low 25 (OH)D in HIV patients is high and is associated with  traditional risk factors such as age, race, overweight, seasonality, overweight and exposure to ART Research by Aranow (2011), suggests that the impact of Vitamin D status on health status of human being played a significant role.

Therefore, Ginde, Liu and Camargo(2009) believe the African community in Europe, UK, and USA are likely to be affected by the geographical location, such that their current vitamin D intake is low due to restriction due to high melanin content in their skin. In addition, the USA Black ethnic group is associated with vitamin D deficiency because they need longer exposure to produce the same level of vitamin D as the white ethnic people do. 

For instance, in USA, the average 25(OH) D concentrations are low for blacks is 17.4 ng/ml as compared to 21.9 ng/ml d 28.3 ng/ml  in fair skin tones respectively. Therefore Prietl et al(2013) suggests , HIV patients with darker skin pigment in these regions are likely to report Vitamin D deficiency These studies suggests that  in the future, skin pigmentation is an effective strategy to identify people who are at risk of vitamin deficiency, especially among the HIV infected population so as to reduce further HIV related issues.

In some specific ART sessions and agents are associated with Vitamin D deficiency. Some studies have indicated that non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) is associated with 25OHD deficiency.

Giusti, Penco, & Pioli (2011), suggest that the protective function of Vitamin D against disease progression and mortality in HIV patients can be explained by its role in immune response. Djukic et al., (2017) suggest 1, 25 (OH) 2D is active in all organ systems and plays an important role in human immune system.  Especially, 1, 25 (OH) 2 D reduces T cell activation and genes associated in cell differentiation and ability to spread.

Furthermore Djukic et al., (2017) believes it reduces the amount of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as Tumor Necrosis factor (TNF – α),Interlukin 2 and 12  (IL2, IL-12) and Interferons (IFN –γ) triggers the T cells to response to TH1 and TH2 responses; these responses also play an important function in controlling the immune cells and antimicrobial defense including monocyte chemotaxis and their differentiation into macrophages, releasing  nitric oxide by macrophages and production of ß defensin 4 and cathelocidin and anti-microbial peptides that stops virus from copying. Due to these antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory functions, it has been suggested that Vitamin D deficiency has a great role in immune anti-inflammatory (Giusti, Penco, & Pioli, 2011).

Effects of vitamin D on immune response

Bailey et al., (2010) suggest that Vitamin D triggers the immune system.  The results suggest that Vitamin D plays a major role in boosting the immune system.  Many studies including Rathish(2012), have looked at human T cells in the lab to study the complex process of Vitamin D in innate and the adaptive immune system, and how the different cells fights infection. These findings are supported by the discovery of people with vitamin D deficiency tend to be more likely to have  infections and that supplementation of vitamin D  may boosts immunity. This chapter explores the role of vitamin D in innate and adaptive immune response.

The studies provided suggest that Vitamin D deficiency allegedly had an effect on immune cells and the reaction quickly destroys CD4 count and furthers the disease. Evidence from Langfordet,al,(2007) does provide that low CD4 is associated with low vitamin D in HIV paitents knowing that, CD4 count are low compared to intracellular pathogens .

Moreover Sun (2010) suggests, enough vitamin D can help increase that natural immune system, fight pathogens, regulate infected CD4 cells and other immune cells. Vitamin D can reduce the progression of HIV progression through CD4 response, recognizing cytokines secretions.


Diamond, T., Levy, S., Smith, A. and Day, P. (2000). Vitamin D deficiency is common in muslim women living in a Sydney urban community. Bone, 27(4), p.27.

Djukic, M., Onken, M. L., Schütze, S., Redlich, S., Götz, A., Hanisch, U. K., … & Bollheimer, C. (2014). Vitamin D deficiency reduces the immune response, phagocytosis rate, and intracellular killing rate of microglial cells. Infection and immunity, 82(6), 2585-2594.

Giusti, A., Penco, G., & Pioli, G. (2011). Vitamin D deficiency in HIV-infected patients: a systematic review. Nutr Dietary Suppl, 3, 101-111.

Holick, M.F. (2007). Vitamin D deficiency. New England Journal ofMedicine, 357, 266–281.

Holick, M. (2007). Vitamin D Deficiency. New England Journal of Medicine, 357(3), pp.266-281.Prietl, B., Treiber, G., Pieber,

T. R., & Amrein, K. (2013). Vitamin D and Immune Function. Nutrients, 5(7), 2502–2521.

Rona, Z. (2010). Vitamin D. 1st ed. Summertown, TN: Books Alive.

Rathish Nair, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].

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