Levamisole-Contaminated Cocaine Use in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Unstably Housed Women.

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Riley ED, Kral AH, Cohen J, Dilworth SE, Shumway M, Lynch KL,

Riley ED, Kral AH, Cohen J, Dilworth SE, Shumway M, Lynch KL, (click to view)

Riley ED, Kral AH, Cohen J, Dilworth SE, Shumway M, Lynch KL,


Journal of women’s health (2002) 2016 5 20()


A growing number of case reports cite serious health complications linked to the cocaine adulterant, levamisole and women are disproportionately affected; however, the clinical effects are not well established. Between April and October of 2010, we conducted a cross-sectional study among 222 homeless and unstably housed women (116 human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]-infected and 106 HIV-uninfected). Immune markers and behavioral factors were compared in separate models by cocaine and levamisole exposure. Overall, 63% of participants were toxicology positive for cocaine/benzoylecgonine, 85% of whom also tested positive for levamisole. Differences in immune markers did not reach levels of significance among HIV-uninfected persons. Compared to HIV-infected persons who were negative for both cocaine and levamisole, the adjusted odds of low white blood cell count were significantly higher among HIV-infected persons positive for both (p = 0.03), but not for those positive for cocaine only. Neutrophil count and HIV viral load did not differ by cocaine and levamisole status among HIV-infected persons. In a separate model, the adjusted odds of testing positive for levamisole were higher among African American women compared to Caucasian and Asian women (p = 0.02). In the context of high levamisole prevalence, results suggest that decreased immune function as a result of levamisole exposure occurs mainly in individuals who are already immune compromised (e.g., HIV-positive), and race/ethnicity appears to be an important factor in understanding levamisole exposure among cocaine-using women. While larger and geographically diverse studies are needed to elucidate these initial findings, results suggest that levamisole may be one mechanism of immune dysfunction in HIV-infected cocaine-using women.

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