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J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2011 Dec;6(4):477-89. doi: 10.1007/s11481-011-9296-1. Epub 2011 Jul 14.

Opioids and HIV/HCV infection.

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  • 1Animal Biosafety Level 3 Laboratory, Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei 430071, People's Republic of China.


Since human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) share the same modes of transmission and common risk factors for infection, co-infections with HIV and HCV are frequently found in injection drug users (IDUs). IDUs represent one of the largest reservoirs of HIV as well as HCV in the United States. These two pathogens are also likely to be responsible for the highest infectious disease morbidity and mortality rates among IDUs. IDUs frequently involve the abuse of heroin, the most common abused opiate. Opiates have been suggested to have a cofactor role in the immunopathogenesis of HIV disease, as they have the potential to compromise host immune responses and enhances microbial infections. Although in vitro studies have yielded relatively agreeable data that morphine, the active metabolite of heroin, exacerbate HIV infection/replication, epidemiologic studies as well as in vivo non-human primate investigations on the impact of opiate abuse on HIV disease progression have yielded the conflicting data. Given immunomodulation and immunocompromising effect as well as demonstrated impact to enhance HIV replication in vitro, it is reasonable to believe that opiate abuse is a facilitator in HIV and/or HCV disease progression. However, much remain to be learned about the mechanisms of opiate-mediated broad influence on host immunity and viral expression. Thus, more extensive studies are needed in order to determine the effects of different conditions of opiate abuse and to define the understanding of the role of opiate in modulating HIV and/or HCV disease progression.

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