A new study led by an Indian-origin researcher at University of Minnesota has shown that chronic morphine use delays wound healing in the presence on an infection.
Dr. Sabita Roy said that morphine use can affect the immune system and those using it have inadequate wound closure.
During the study, researchers examined wound healing in a mouse model of chronic morphine use/abuse.
In the presence of inflammation, chronic morphine exposure resulted in a marked decrease in wound closure, compromised wound integrity, and increased bacterial sepsis.
With morphine exposure, expression of particular immune molecules was altered, which led to decreased recruitment of immune cells to the wound site.
New blood vessel formation and recruitment of replacement cells were also suppressed in these animals.
The study suggests that immunosuppression due to morphine treatment delays immune cell recruitment, leading to lack of bacterial clearance and delayed wound closure.
"These studies provide an in vivo tool by which further mechanistic experiments can be performed to address why, clinically, heroin-addicted patients often present with infected non-healing wounds," said the researchers.
"Understanding these underlying mechanisms affords improved treatment options not only for chronic morphine users and abusers, but can also have translational implications for immuno-compromised populations such as the elderly or those who are chronically stressed," they added.
The study appears in The American Journal of Pathology.