Neuroscience Research Center, Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Kerman, Iran, Cancer Research Center, Medical Sciences/University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran, Immunology, Asthma and Allergy Research Institute, Medical Sciences/University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
There are a few studies with conflicting results on the effects of opioids on the functioning of immune system. This study was performed to investigate the in vitro production of interferon-γ and interleukin-10 after antigenic stimulation of cells using whole blood from opioid addicts. Blood samples were taken from 20 chronically opioid-addicted persons, who voluntarily enrolled for detoxification (10 opium and 10 heroin addicts). Blood samples were also taken from 10 healthy individuals with no history of drug abuse as the control. Cell culture was performed in a whole blood culture assay. Diluted blood samples were stimulated with phytohemagglutinin or with lipopolysaccharide and the supernatants were collected to measure cytokine production. The results demonstrated a significant decrease in interferon-γ production and an increase in interleukin-10 secretion in heroin addicts, relative to the control group (35.9 ± 26.3 versus 110.2 ± 60.3 pg/mL, p < 0.01 and 71.8 ± 28.4 versus 17.1 ± 13.5 pg/mL, p < 0.01, respectively), however the changes in these values in opium addicts were not significant compared to healthy individuals. The results could suggest that opioid addiction leads to a shift in the Th1/Th2 cytokine balance of peripheral CD4+ cells towards the Th2 response, and opioid addicts demonstrate reduced mitogenic responsiveness of lymphocytes relative to healthy individuals.