Occasional heroin use may worsen HIV infection

December 15, 2014

Researchers at Yale and Boston University and their Russian collaborators have found that occasional heroin use by HIV-positive patients may be particularly harmful to the immune system and worsens HIV disease, compared to persistent or no heroin use.

The findings are published in the journal AIDS and Behavior.

"We expected that HIV-positive patients who abused heroin on an ongoing basis would have the greatest decreases in their CD4 count, but this preliminary study showed that those who abused heroin intermittently had lower CD4 cell counts, indicating a weakened immune system," said lead author E. Jennifer Edelman, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine. "Our findings suggest that heroin withdrawal may be particularly harmful to the immune system, as measured by CD4 cell count."

A higher CD4 cell count signals a stronger immune system. Since laboratory and epidemiological studies have found that opioids such as heroin are harmful to the immune system, Edelman and her co-authors were interested in whether heroin use impacted HIV disease progression. In this pilot study, the team measured CD4 cell counts among 77 HIV-infected Russian participants who drank alcohol heavily, and who were not yet taking antiretroviral medication.

Study participants self-reported their use of heroin and other substances at the beginning of the study, and then at 6 and 12 months. Edelman and her team looked at changes in CD4 count at the beginning and at the end of 12 months and found lower CD4 counts in the participants who intermittently used heroin than in those who consistently abused the drug.

"This manuscript represents an important step towards identifying the need for future study of the effects of heroin withdrawal on HIV disease progression, as it may have unique effects compared with chronic and no heroin use," said Edelman. "Our future analyses will include examining other markers of T cell (CD4 and CD8 cell) dysfunction," said Edelman. "We will also evaluate the effects of heroin and other opioids on other aspects of immune function."
-end-
Other authors on the study include Debbie M. Cheng, Evgeny M. Krupitsky, Carly Bridden, Emily Quinn, Alexander Y. Walley, Dmitry A. Lioznov, Elena Blokhina, Edwin Zvartau, and Jeffrey H. Samet.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Citation: AIDS and Behavior DOI 10.1007/s10461-014-0948-z

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10461-014-0948-z

Yale University

Related Immune System Articles from Brightsurf:

How the immune system remembers viruses
For a person to acquire immunity to a disease, T cells must develop into memory cells after contact with the pathogen.

How does the immune system develop in the first days of life?
Researchers highlight the anti-inflammatory response taking place after birth and designed to shield the newborn from infection.

Memory training for the immune system
The immune system will memorize the pathogen after an infection and can therefore react promptly after reinfection with the same pathogen.

Immune system may have another job -- combatting depression
An inflammatory autoimmune response within the central nervous system similar to one linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has also been found in the spinal fluid of healthy people, according to a new Yale-led study comparing immune system cells in the spinal fluid of MS patients and healthy subjects.

COVID-19: Immune system derails
Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction - rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition.

Immune cell steroids help tumours suppress the immune system, offering new drug targets
Tumours found to evade the immune system by telling immune cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids.

Immune system -- Knocked off balance
Instead of protecting us, the immune system can sometimes go awry, as in the case of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

Too much salt weakens the immune system
A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.

Parkinson's and the immune system
Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.

How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.

Read More: Immune System News and Immune System Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.