Medical News Todayfor October 2, 2013, summarized a research study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology that found that use of cocaine alters cells in the body related to immune responses, making them not only more vulnerable to the HIV virus but also to the spread of the virus once one is infected.

The Medical New Today report stated: “To make this discovery, scientists collected blood from healthy human donors and isolated quiescent CD4 T cells, and exposed them to cocaine and subsequently infected them with HIV. Following infection, researchers monitored the progression of HIV's life cycle and compared this progression against that of untreated cells. They found that cocaine rendered this subset of CD4 T cells susceptible to HIV, resulting in significant infection and new virus production.”

The editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology emphasized the potential significance of this research: "The co-epidemics of illicit drug use and infectious disease [such as HIV infection]…are well documented, though typically this connection is thought to occur through lifestyle choices and increased exposure … What often does not come to mind is that drugs such as cocaine may be helping to fuel infections in this high-risk population by altering the immune system. These new studies are an important advance documenting how cocaine use may increase a person's vulnerability to HIV and further highlighting the need for improved education for both HIV prevention and drug abstinence."

Thus, another negative consequence of drug addiction is that the drug user's body immune response systems can become compromised resulting in the user being more vulnerable to infections such as HIV and to the spread of that infection in the user. As always, comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams,, 10/02/2013.


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