Fentanyl enhances HIV infection in vitro

Virology. 2022 Oct 11;577:43-50. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2022.10.004. Online ahead of print.


Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) caused by Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) has a high tendency among illicit drug abusers. Recently, it is reported that abuse of fentanyl, a potent synthetic μ receptor-stimulating opioid, is an independent risk factor for HIV-1 infection. However, the mechanism of action in augmenting HIV-1 infection still remains elusive. In this study, we found that fentanyl enhanced infection of HIV-1 in MT2 cells, primary macrophages and Jurkat C11 cells. Fentanyl up-regulated CXCR4 and CCR5 receptor expression, which facilitated the entry of virion into host cells. In addition, it down-regulated interferon-β (IFN-β) and interferon-stimulated genes (APOBEC3F, APOBEC3G and MxB) expression in MT2 cells. Our findings identify an essential role of fentanyl in the positive regulation of HIV-1 infection via the upregulation of co-receptors (CXCR4/CCR5) and downregulation of IFN-β and ISGs, and it may have an important role in HIV-1 immunopathogenesis.

Keywords: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; Fentanyl; Human immunodeficiency virus; Opioids; Reactivation.