Methamphetamine enhances histoplasmosis by immunosuppression of the host

J Infect Dis. 2009 Jul 1;200(1):131-41. doi: 10.1086/599328.


The effect of methamphetamine on the host response to an opportunistic pathogen has not been extensively described. Methamphetamine is a major public health and safety problem in the United States. Chronic methamphetamine abuse is associated with a 2-fold higher risk of human immunodeficiency virus infection and, possibly, additional infections. Histoplasma capsulatum is a dimorphic fungus that is endemic in the Midwest of the United States and that causes respiratory and systemic disease, particularly in individuals with impaired immunity. We showed that methamphetamine abrogates normal macrophage function, resulting in an inability to control histoplasmosis. Methamphetamine decreased phagocytosis and killing of yeast by primary macrophages by alkalization of the phagosome. Furthermore, mice that received methamphetamine prior to H. capsulatum infection were immunologically impaired, with increased fungal burden, increased pulmonary inflammation, and decreased survival. Immunosuppression by methamphetamine may be associated with deregulation of cytokines in the lungs of infected mice, aberrant processing of H. capsulatum within macrophages, and immobilization of MAC-1 receptors on the surface of macrophages that are involved in phagocytosis. Additionally, methamphetamine inhibits T cell proliferation and alters antibody production, which are important components of adaptive immunity. With use of a murine model of histoplasmosis, this study establishes that methamphetamine may alter the immune system of the host and enhance fungal pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Fungal / isolation & purification
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Histoplasma / drug effects*
  • Histoplasmosis / pathology
  • Histoplasmosis / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-12 / metabolism
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Methamphetamine / adverse effects*
  • Methamphetamine / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Antigens, Fungal
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interleukin-12
  • Methamphetamine
  • Interferon-gamma