Cocaine use can make otherwise resistant immune cells susceptible to HIV
Anew unique UCLA population study shows of immune cocaine cells affects called a quiescent virus that causes CD4 T cells, AIDS. which Cocaine are makes resistant the to cells the susceptible to infection with HIV, causing both significant infection and new production of the virus. In many ways, the spread of HIV has been fueled by substance abuse. Shared needles and drug users’ highrisk sexual behaviors are just some of the ways that narcotics such as cocaine have played a key role in the AIDS epidemic in much of the world. “The surprising result was that the changes cocaine induced on these cells were very minimal, yet they were sufficient to fuel infection,” said Dimitrios Vatakis, assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the study’s senior author. “We found that cocaine mediates its effects directly, inducing minimal changes in the physiology of these cells and utilizing the same pathways it uses to target the brain.” Researchers found a three-day exposure to cocaine made the cells more susceptible to HIV infection by stimulating two receptors in the cells, called 1 and D4. The findings suggest that cocaine use increases the pool of T cells in the human body that can become infected by the virus.