Morphine potentiates neuropathogenesis of SIV infection in rhesus macaques

Sirosh M. Bokhari, Ramakrishna Hegde, Shannon Callen, Honghong Yao, Istvan Adany, Qingsheng Li, Zhuang Li, David Pinson, Hung Wen Yeh, Paul D. Cheney, Shilpa Buch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Despite the advent of antiretroviral therapy, complications of HIV-1 infection with concurrent drug abuse are an emerging problem. Opiates are well known to modulate immune responses by preventing the development of cell-mediated immune responses. Their effect on the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection however remains controversial. Using the simian immunodeficiency virus/macaque model of HIV pathogenesis, we sought to explore the impact of morphine on disease progression and pathogenesis. Sixteen rhesus macaques were divided into two groups; four were administered saline and 12 others morphine routinely. Both groups of animals were then inoculated with SIVmacR71/17E and followed longitudinally for disease pathogenesis. The morphine group (M+V) exhibited a trend towards higher mortality rates and retardation in weight gain compared to the virus-alone group. Interestingly, a subset of M+V animals succumbed to disease within weeks post-infection. These rapid progressors also exhibited a higher incidence of other end-organ pathologies. Despite the higher numbers of circulating CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in the M+V group, CD4/CD8 ratios between the groups remained unchanged. Plasma and CSF viral load in the M+V group was at least a log higher than the control group. Similarly, there was a trend toward increased virus build-up in the brains of M+V animals compared with controls. A novel finding of this study was the increased influx of infected monocyte/macrophages in the brains of M+V animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-639
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Morphine
  • Neuropathogenesis
  • SIV

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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