Impact of illicit opioid use on T cell subsets among HIV-infected adults

PLoS One. 2017 May 4;12(5):e0176617. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0176617. eCollection 2017.


Objectives: Opioids have immunosuppressive properties, yet opioid effects on T cell abnormalities consistent with the immune risk phenotype among HIV-infected individuals are understudied.

Methods: To assess associations between illicit opioid use and T cell characteristics (CD4/CD8 ratio, memory profiles based on CD45RO and CD28 expression, and senescence based on CD57 expression), we conducted an exploratory cross-sectional analysis of Russia ARCH, a cohort of antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naïve HIV-infected individuals recruited 11/2012 to 10/2014 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The main independent variable was past 30 day illicit opioid use (yes vs. no). Secondary analyses evaluated none (0 days), intermittent (1 to 7 days), and persistent (8 to 30 days) opioid use. Outcomes were determined with flow cytometry. Analyses were conducted using linear regression models.

Results: Among 186 participants, 38% reported any illicit opioid use (18% intermittent and 20% persistent). Any illicit opioid use was not significantly associated with T cell characteristics. Intermittent opioid use appeared to be associated with decreased memory CD8+ T cells proportion (CD45RO+CD45RA- CD8+ T cells: adjusted mean difference [AMD] [95% CI] = -6.15 [-11.50, -0.79], p = 0.02) and borderline significant increased senescent T cells (%CD57+ of total CD28-CD8+ T cells (AMD [95% CI] = 7.70 [-0.06, 15.46], p = 0.05).

Conclusions: Among ART-naïve HIV-infected Russians, any illicit opioid use was not significantly associated with T cell abnormalities although intermittent illicit opioid use may be associated with CD8 T cell abnormalities. Longitudinal studies are warranted to confirm these findings given increased risk of infections and comorbidities seen among HIV-infected individuals with illicit opioid use.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / complications
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets*