Alcohol can worsen the effects of disease, resulting in longer recovery period after trauma, injury or burns.
It is also known to impair the anti-viral immune response, especially in the liver, including response against Hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV.
Here’s how the impairment is effected:
New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Immunology shows that alcohol modulates the anti-viral and inflammatory functions of monocytes and that prolonged alcohol consumption has a double negative effect of reducing the anti-viral effect of Type 1 interferon (IFN) whilst increasing inflammation via the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School looked at the effect of alcohol on monocytes collected from the blood of healthy volunteers. The group, led by Prof Gyongyi Szabo, focussed specifically on two disease related pathways -- the first (Toll-like receptor 8 -- TLR8) stimulated by single strand RNA viral attack and the second (TLR4) is involved in recognising bacteria.
Their results showed that, as expected, activation of these pathways resulted in an increase in the levels of the anti-viral cytokine IFN, however this was reduced by treatment with alcohol equivalent to four or five drinks a day for seven days. Similarly stimulation of these pathways resulted in an increase in the levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα. However, while a single treatment with alcohol decreased the amount of TNFα, prolonged treatment increased levels of inflammation.
Maoyin Pang, Shashi Bala, Karen Kodys, Donna Catalano and Gyongyi Szabo. Inhibition of TLR8- and TLR4-induced Type I IFN induction by alcohol is different from its effects on inflammatory cytokine production in monocytes. BMC Immunology, 2011, 12:55doi:10.1186/1471-2172-12-