In the report, scientists show 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.
Senior author Dimitrios N. Vatakis, Ph.D., scientist with UCLA's Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology and the UCLA AIDS Institute, said that they ultimately hope that their studies will provide a better understanding of how drugs of abuse impact how our body defends itself against disease.
For 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 research has been published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.