Peripheral human T lymphocyte maintenance of immune functional capacity and phenotypic characteristics following in vivo cocaine exposure

Phillip Ruiz, Mariana Berho, Bernard W. Steele, Lei Hao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The effects of cocaine exposure upon the host's immune response is equivocal since a variety of studies have generated conflicting conclusions, often as the result of differences between in vitro and/or animal models and the actual conditions experienced in humans who are acutely abusing this drug. To further address this issue, we have studied a group of patients who were positive for cocaine or cocaine metabolites and we evaluated a variety of functional parameters of T-lymphocytes and other peripheral lymphoid cell populations, as well as immunophenotypic characteristics of these cells. When compared to normal controls and patients who were negative for cocaine, we found that the cocaine-positive patients had T-cell functional assays which were essentially normal, with the exception of a slight depression in PHA stimulation. Likewise, the immunophenotype of the peripheral blood lymphocytic populations showed normal percentages and numbers of their T cell subsets (CD4, CD8), NK cells, and B cells. Multicolor flow cytometry analysis revealed no difference in T cell subpopulations positive for the 'memory' marker, CD62L. No correlation could be established between levels of cocaine or cocaine metabolites and any phenotypic, demographic, or functional parameter. In summary, these results demonstrate that individuals acutely exposed to cocaine do not show markedly altered T cell function or fluctuations in phenotypically identified cell populations. These studies imply that acute cocaine exposure does not predispose individuals to grossly apparent immunosuppression. However, the possibility that subtle, transient, or more specific changes in the immune system may be incurred by use of cocaine, particularly with chronic exposure, remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-276
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1998


  • Cocaine
  • T lymphocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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