Anti-Opioid Antibodies in Individuals Using Chronic Opioid Therapy for Lower Back Pain

August 25, 2020


In addition to the risk of developing opioid use disorder (OUD), known side-effects of long-term opioid use include chronic inflammation and hyperalgesia, which may arise from immune responses induced following chronic opioid use. To investigate this hypothesis, blood samples were obtained from individuals with chronic back pain who were either chronically taking prescription opioids or had minimal recent opioid exposure. Patient samples were analyzed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) against hydrocodone- or oxycodone-hapten conjugates to assess the levels of antibodies present in the samples. While no specific response was seen in opioid-naïve subjects, we observed varying levels of anti-opioid IgM antibodies in the exposed subjects. In these subjects, antibody formation was found to be weakly correlated with current reported daily opioid dose. Other drugs of abuse found to elicit an immune response have been shown to generate advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) through reaction with glucose and subsequent modification of self-proteins. Investigations into this potential mechanism of anti-opioid antibody production identified reduced the formation of reactive intermediate species upon norhydrocodone reaction with glucose in comparison with nornicotine, thus identifying potentially important differences in hapten processing to yield the observed adaptive immune response.

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