Cocaine administration increases CD4/CD8 lymphocyte ratio in peripheral blood despite lymphopenia and elevated corticosterone

Maciej M. Jankowski*, Bogna Ignatowska-Jankowska, Wojciech Glac, Artur H. Swiergiel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The CD4/CD8 lymphocyte ratio in peripheral blood is used in the diagnosis of HIV infection, autoimmune disorders or susceptibility to infections. The present experiment aimed to evaluate the lymphocyte subsets, their distribution and CD4/CD8 ratio in blood after repeated, intravenous administration of cocaine. Adult male Wistar rats received three daily, in 30min intervals, intravenous infusions of cocaine hydrochloride (5mg/kg) or saline for 14 consecutive days. After each infusion the locomotor-activating effects of cocaine were assessed. Blood samples were collected 30min after the last daily infusion on the 1st, 7th and 14th day of treatment. Total leukocyte numbers, percentages of leukocyte subpopulations, and T, B, NK, T CD4+, and T CD8+ lymphocyte subsets, IFN-γ, and plasma corticosterone were determined. Repeated cocaine treatment resulted in an increase in neutrophil numbers and a significant decrease in total leukocyte and lymphocyte numbers involving a significant reduction in numbers of T, B, and NK lymphocyte subsets. T CD4+ and T CD8+ lymphocyte numbers were reduced but with a considerably smaller decrease in T CD4+ number. Cocaine treatment altered proportions between the lymphocyte subsets by decreasing the percentages of T CD8+, B, and NK cells but increasing a percentage of T CD4+ cells. Destabilization in proportions between T CD4+ and T CD8+ was manifested as an elevated CD4/CD8 ratio that occurred despite increased plasma corticosterone and the lymphocytopenia. Cocaine did not affect the concentration of IFN-γ. The results suggest that although cocaine induced lymphopenia, it did not suppress the overall immune activity in terms of the CD4/CD8 ratio.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1229-1234
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Immunopharmacology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education Predoctoral Research Grants NN303 417137 and NN303 394036 to M. Jankowski and B. Ignatowska-Jankowska. Editorial assistance of Mr. Brandon Pearson of the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, is highly appreciated.


  • Cocaine
  • Immune system
  • Intravenous
  • Lymphocyte subset
  • Peripheral blood
  • Rat


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