Low vitamin D levels are linked to high levels of hepatitis B virus concentration, according to research published in the Journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. The researchers postulate that seasonal fluctuations in vitamin D and hepatitis B virus (HBV) levels suggest a link between the two.
HBV is one of the most common diseases in the world. Two billion people are currently infected with HBV, while 350 million people are infected with chronic HBV. Most healthy adults who are infected will recover and develop antibodies to fight future HBV infections. The people who do not recover will develop chronic HBV. HBV is responsible for 600,000 deaths every year.
“Vitamin D helps maintain a healthy immune system and there is evidence of its role in inflammatory and metabolic liver disease, including infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV). However, the relationship between vitamin D metabolism and chronic HBV infection remains unknown and is the focus of our present study,” explains lead author Dr Christian Lange.
The researchers included 200 patients with chronic HBV who hadn’t received any treatment for the infection.
The researchers found that 34% of participants were severely vitamin D deficient (<10 ng/ml), 47% were vitamin D “insufficient” (10-20 ng/ml), and 19% had sufficient levels (> 20 ng/ml). They also report that the concentration of HBV in the participants’ blood, also known as viral load, was strongly associated with vitamin D levels. Furthermore, researchers found that there were inverse seasonal fluctuations between vitamin D and HBV levels.
The present findings add to past research which reports a link between low vitamin D and poor treatment response in people with hepatitis C. The authors recommend further study of vitamin D as a possible intervention for controlling HBV.