A recent study has found that cannabinoids do not adversely affect the immune system of patients diagnosed with both human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Investigator Fabienne Marcellin and a team of researchers from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research surveyed 955 HIV and HCV patients to determine whether using cannabinoids to help manage symptoms had any impact on their T-cell count.
T-cells, or CD4 cells, are a type of white blood cells that play a significant role in the body’s immune system. HIV attacks these cells, leaving patients highly susceptible to not being able to fight off health threats like diseases and infections.
Patients diagnosed with HIV commonly incorporate medical cannabinoids into their treatment regimens in an effort to manage what are often debilitating symptoms of the disease. According to the study, cannabinoids have also been shown to help HIV patients reduce the nausea and vomiting, appetite loss, pain, heart disease, and bone tissue breakdown that often accommodates antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Of the 955 patients surveyed, 48 percent reported using cannabinoids within at least four weeks before completing the questionnaire.
The subsequent impact of cannabinoids on the immune system of HIV patients had generally been unstudied. However, a 2003 placebo-controlled clinical trial found cannabinoids had no ill effects on CD4 cell counts in HIV-positive individuals. The new study by Marcellin and his team also found cannabinoids to have no adverse impact on T-cells.
“Findings show no evidence for a negative effect of [cannabinoid] use on circulating CD4 T-cell counts/percentages in HIV-HCV co-infected patients,” Marcellin concluded in the study.
The researchers did note that investigations into the potential impact on CD4 levels in the lungs and on the functional properties of cells are still needed.
Still, the findings are encouraging to medical professionals, who often recommend cannabinoids to those with HIV for symptom management.
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