Scientists found that cocaine alters immune cells, called "quiescent CD4 T cells," to render them more susceptible to the virus, and at the same time, to allow for increased proliferation of the virus.

"Such discovery can significantly improve the quality of life of drug users," Vatakis said. In the study, 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 co-epidemics of illicit drug use and infectious disease are well documented, though typically this connection is thought to occur through lifestyle choices and increased exposure," said John Wherry, Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology in which the study was published.
"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," he said.


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