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Cocaine abusers highly vulnerable

Published Jan 3, 2014, 2:45 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 4:24 am IST
Drug lowers immunity, puts people at risk of fatal diseases.

Hyderabad: Cocaine abuse can make otherwise resistant immune cells vulnerable to HIV.

But scientists now hint that it is not just HIV, but several other fatal diseases that cocaine can make its abusers susceptible to.


Researchers from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and universities in the US have found the pathway by which cocaine abuse leads to vulnerability to the HIV virus.

Scientists have shown that cocaine inhibits a vital micro RNA, thereby reducing immunity in the body.

Micro RNAs are non-coding small ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules that play a significant role in regulating gene expression in the human genome. Scientists have linked cocaine abuse to a multifunctional micro RNA, miR-155, with increased vulnerability to HIV.

“Our results suggest that the mechanism of cocaine mediated enhancement of HIV infection may be mediated by the down-regulation of miR-155 and this could lead to faster progression of HIV disease,” scientists said; miR-155 has been found to play a crucial role in viral infectious disease, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.


HIV is not the only virus that finds it easy to attack the human body once the miR-115 molecule is down regulated.

Cocaine abusers can turn vulnerable to several other diseases considering miR-155 is critical in many disease pathways.

According to studies, miR-155 is a multifunctional molecular and plays an important role in physiological and pathological processes such as immunity and inflammation.

The micro RNA is also critical in several viral infections, particularly those caused by DNA viruses.

New research has shown that cocaine abuse leads to down regulation of miR-155 expression by at least 90 per cent leading to drop in immunity and subsequent susceptibility to HIV.


“Our study model was with respect to HIV. So at this point, we can’t name the specific diseases that people who abuse cocaine are vulnerable to. More studies are needed to ascertain what these diseases are,” scientists said. 

Location: Andhra Pradesh