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Nat Immun Cell Growth Regul. 1990;9(6):397-405.

Effect of acute or daily cocaine administration on cellular immune response and virus infection in mice.

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  • 1Department of Experimental Medicine, 2nd University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Italy.


The effects of in vivo cocaine administrations on cellular cytotoxicity were studied. Cocaine induced a dose-related immunosuppression of natural killer cell activity, with maximal depression at 1-5 mg/kg. In addition, the degree of inhibition following a single intraperitoneal (i.p.) or intravenous cocaine dose (acute treatment, 1 mg/kg) was similar to that after repeated administration (subchronic treatment: 1 mg/kg/day i.p. for 7 consecutive days or subcutaneous administration by Alzet 2001 osmotic minipumps). T cells from cocaine-treated mice failed to generate cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) in mixed lymphocyte cultures and acute or subchronic cocaine treatment also inhibited CTL generation in vivo. On the other hand, acute administration induced a very rapid (24-hour) inhibition of natural cytotoxicity, with a return to normal within 72 h after treatment. By contrast, repeated doses led to more protracted immunologic consequences and a delayed recovery (144 h). The effect of cocaine on susceptibility to influenza virus (PR8) infection was also investigated. Both acute and subchronic treatment significantly decreased resistance to PR8 infection. The results clearly indicate that cocaine has a potent suppressive effect on cellular immunity and that abuse can adversely affect the outcome of infectious diseases.

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