Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 338–351

Morphine-induced Neuroimmunomodulation in Murine Visceral Leishmaniasis: The Role(s) of Cytokines and Nitric Oxide

Original Article


Opioid modulation of host resistance to infectious diseases is well documented; however, not much is known during visceral leishmaniasis (VL). Low doses of morphine, administered subcutaneously in Leishmania donovani-infected BALB/c mice, on days 0 and +15, significantly (p < 0.05) suppressed (1 mg/kg/day) or even sterile-cleared (2 mg/kg/day) the infection; paradoxically, high doses (10 and 30 mg/kg/day) exacerbated the infection. In vitro, low concentration (1 × 10−9 and 1 × 10−11 M) morphine treatment of L. donovani-infected mouse peritoneal macrophages (PM), endowed them with significant (p < 0.05) leishmanicidal activity, whereas a high-concentration (1 × 10−5 M) treatment augmented intramacrophage parasite growth. Naloxone pre-treatment of infected-mice (4 mg/kg × 2) and of infected-PM (1 × 10−5 M), blocked only the morphine low dose/concentration-induced protective effect. The splenocytes from protected mice and morphine low concentration-treated infected-PM, elaborated significantly (p < 0.05) enhanced levels of interleukin-12, interferon-γ, tumor necrosis factor-α, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and nitrite in the culture medium; a high dose/concentration suppressed their elaboration. Curiously, only morphine high dose/concentration-treated infected mice splenocytes and infected PM, produced significantly (p < 0.05) increased quantity of transforming growth factor-β1. Aminoguanidine, significantly (p < 0.05) blocked the morphine low dose/concentration-induced protective effect, in vivo and in vitro. This first study demonstrates dose-dependent biphasic modulatory effects of morphine in L. donovani-infected mice and PM, in vitro, apparently via nitric oxide-dependent mechanisms. These results thus demonstrate the implications of opiate abuse on the efficacy assessment of antileishmanial drugs and vaccines, and on the reactivation of latent VL in areas where both drug abuse and VL are rampant.


cytokines Leishmania donovani macrophages morphine neuroimmunomodulation nitric oxide 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology and ToxicologyNational Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and ResearchNagarIndia

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