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Cocaine use may cause the body to be more susceptible to HIV infections, according to a new study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles exposed healthy cells to both cocaine and HIV and found that the cells were more likely to be infected and that the infection may even be stronger with the use of the drug. In addition, the infection may be stronger among affected individuals who use cocaine than those who do not use it.
Cocaine and HIV
The study's investigators found that quiescent CD4 T cells, a component of the immune system that is usually resistant to HIV infections, may be infected when cocaine is present. Although these cells are usually resistant to infections, they are targeted by HIV.
Researchers used samples of quiescent CD4 T cells from healthy donors and exposed them to cocaine and HIV in lab tests. Over three days, the cells were more likely to infected by HIV after cocaine exposure, and the virus may actually grow faster after the drug compromises the immune system.
The researchers noted that the link between cocaine exposure and HIV widened the pool of cells that HIV can infect, posing a challenge to treating the sexually transmitted disease in people who recreationally use the drug.
HIV is the infection that causes AIDS when untreated. While neither disease has a cure, antiretroviral therapies can help to slow the progression of HIV and allow affected individuals to live longer. HIV infections can go without showing symptoms for up to 10 years, so STD testing is important for people who may have been exposed, according to Planned Parenthood. The sooner an HIV or AIDS infection is found, the sooner treatment can begin, which can help to significantly extend the lives of people with the disease.
Early symptoms of HIV include swelling in the lymph nodes, armpits and groin, as well as fever, headaches and fatigue. Since these effects can be easily mistaken with those of a cold or flu, regular testing is important. A lab test online can reveal STD status for those seeking a discreet diagnosis.
Proper sexual protection can prevent the spread of HIV, so those diagnosed with STD tests should always use condoms. It is also important to give information to sexual partners about HIV/AIDS status as well as that of other common STDs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
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