Elevated serum levels of neopterin but not β2-microglobulin in HIV-1-seronegative injecting drug users

Howard D. Strickler, James F. Blanchard, David Vlahov, Ellen Taylor, Alvaro Muñoz, Kenrad E. Nelson, Joseph B. Margolick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine whether injecting drug use is associated with cellular immune activation in the absence of HIV-1 infection. Design: Serum levels of neopterin and β2-microglobulin (β2M) were measured cross-sectionally in injecting drug users (IDU) enrolled in a prospective study. Subjects and methods: Two hundred and nineteen HIV-1-seronegative, healthy heterosexual black male IDU aged 21-49 years were selected from the Baltimore-based AIDS Linked to Intravenous Experiences (ALIVE) study. The possibility of including subjects in the process of seroconverting to HIV-1 was minimized by restricting the study to individuals who remained seronegative 6 months after the specimens used for analysis were collected. Results: Mean serum β2M levels were not statistically different among groups of IDU whose usual pattern of injection was at least once a day for up to 3 consecutive days (daily users; n = 65), less than once per day (less-than-daily users; n = 75), or not at all for at least 2 weeks (non-recent users; n = 79). In contrast, the mean neopterin level was significantly (P = 0.039) greater in daily users (6.17nmol/l) than in the other two groups (5.07 and 5.19nmol/l, respectively, which were not statistically different). These results were not affected, by the frequency of using borrowed non-sterile works or by other demographic and risk factor variables. Conclusions: Frequent injecting drug use may be independently associated with a small elevation of serum neopterin levels, but not β2M levels. Although the occurrence of a type I error in this sample cannot be completely excluded, serum neopterin may be more sensitive than serum β2M in detecting activation of immunocompetent cells associated with frequent injecting drug use in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-367
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Cocaine
  • HIV
  • Heroin
  • Injecting drug use
  • Neopterin
  • β-microglobulin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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