Cocaine’s Effect on the Immune System and HIV Infection
Research out of UCLA links cocaine use to a weakened resistance to HIV. What was involved in the study? And what does it mean by at-risk individuals? Read on to learn how cocaine use increases your chances of HIV infection.
It is well documented that there are surprising similarities between the immune systems of mice and humans. That makes them the perfect test subject when it comes to studying infection and deadly diseases. Therefore, a study that had previously only been performed in a dish has now been tested with live subjects. What was the result? Let’s consider the process first.
In previous lab tests, it was determined that the use of cocaine over a period of just three days is enough to affect the immune system. The body starts out with cells that can put up quite a fight with HIV. These immune cells are called CD4 T cells. The cocaine exposure, however, blocks the normal working of these cells by stimulating two of the cell’s receptors.
For five days, mice were given injections. Half were given cocaine, and the other half was given a placebo with saline. Next, HIV was introduced via injections, and then the cocaine/placebo routine continued for another 14 days. At the end of the study, they not only discovered that the mice who were given cocaine had higher concentrations of the virus in their system but also that nearly half of the mice given a placebo had undetectable amounts of the disease.
The CD4 T cells, however, were not affected as suspected. On the contrary, it was the CD8 T cells that seemed to cease functioning. Either way, though, the fact remains that cocaine made it tougher for the immune system to defend itself against HIV.
This study continues to highlight the connection between illicit drug use and HIV infection. It reveals that anyone who uses cocaine is placing themselves at higher risk for infection. While ceasing drug use is the best option, frequent testing is important for one who pursues an at-risk lifestyle.