Background HIV-infected persons have an increased risk of atherosclerosis relative to uninfected individuals. Inflammatory processes may contribute to this risk. We evaluated the associations of 10 biomarkers of systemic inflammation (CRP, IL-6, sTNF-αR1 and 2), monocyte activation (CCL2, sCD163, sCD14), coagulation (fibrinogen, D-dimer), and endothelial dysfunction (ICAM-1) with subclinical carotid atherosclerosis among participants in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS). Methods Carotid plaque and intima media thickness (IMT) in the common carotid (CCA-IMT) and bifurcation region were assessed by B mode ultrasound among 452 HIV-infected and 276 HIV-uninfected men from 2010–2013. Associations between levels of each biomarker and presence of focal plaque and IMT were assessed by logistic and linear regression models, adjusting for demographics, risk behaviors, traditional cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, and HIV disease characteristics. Results Compared to HIV-uninfected men, HIV-infected men had significantly higher levels of 8 of the 10 biomarkers. Overall, men with sCD163, CCL2, IL-6, and CRP levels in the highest quintile had approximately 2 times the odds of carotid plaque relative to those with levels in the lowest quintile, independent of demographic and CVD risk factors. Fibrinogen levels were positively associated with CCA-IMT while ICAM-1, CCL2, and sTNF-αR1 levels were positively associated with bifurcation-IMT. Among HIV-uninfected men, higher levels of sTNF-αR2 were positively associated with CCA-IMT, fibrinogen with bifurcation-IMT and carotid plaque, and ICAM-1 with carotid plaque. Conclusion In addition to greater levels of systemic inflammation, heightened monocyte activation (sCD163, CCL2) may contribute to the burden of atherosclerosis among HIV-infected persons.
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