Cocaine causes HIV rise in mice

Keith Alcorn, Keith Alcorn
Published: 15 February 2002

Mice infected with HIV and then exposed to cocaine for 10 to 12 days had HIV levels 200 to 300-fold higher than counterparts not exposed to cocaine, according to a report published today in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Cocaine could increase the number of CCR4 and CCR5 receptors on the surface of CD4 cells, which would allow many more cells to be infected and to produce new HIV.

The HIV-infected mice exposed to cocaine also had just one ninth of the CD4 T-cells of mice in the control group. If cocaine had this effect in people with HIV, one would expect to find much faster rates of disease progression among regular users of cocaine, because loss of CD4 cells makes people vulnerable to AIDS-related illnesses.

However, epidemiological studies looking at gay men have produced conflicting data regarding the association between regular use of cocaine and faster disease progression. Whilst the San Francisco Men’s Health Study reported no association in 1996, a review of the San Francisco City Clinic Cohort published in 2001 found that weekly use of cocaine was associated with a greater risk of death among men with HIV.


Di Franco MJ et al. The lack of association of marijuana and other recreational drugs with progression to AIDS in the San Francisco Men's Health Study. Annals of Epidemiology;6(4): 283-9, 1996.

Roth MD, et al. Cocaine enhances human immunodeficiency virus replication in a model of severe combined immunodeficient mice implanted with human peripheral blood leukocytes. Journal of Infectious Diseases 185: 701-5, 2002.

Vittinghoff E, et al. Cofactors for HIV disease progression in a cohort of homosexual and bisexual men. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 27(3): 308-14, 2001.