New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Immunology shows that drinking alcohol in excessive quantities or over a long period of time can weaken the body’s ability to fight viral infections.
Alcohol is also known to impair the anti-viral immune response in the liver. As a result, the body is more vulnerable to hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School looked at the effects of alcohol on monocytes collected from the blood of healthy volunteers. The study, led by Prof. Gyongyi Szabo found that activation of two disease related pathways – Toll-like receptor 8 (TLR8) and TLR4 were reduced due to consumption of 4-5 glasses of alcohol a day for seven days.
Alcohol also resulted in increased levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine, TNFalpha, that trigger inflammation. Low amount of alcohol consumption decreased the amount of TNFalpha, however prolonged consumption increased levels of inflammation.
“Alcohol has a profound effect of inhibiting IFN production in monocytes regardless of whether the danger signal is intracellular (TLR8) or surface-derived (TLR4). Such a reduction would weaken the body’s ability to fight viral infection. In addition, the pro-inflammatory cytokine, TNFalpha, which promote inflammation increases along with prolonged alcohol consumption,” Prof. Gyongyi said. “Prolonged alcohol consumption changes the immune balance of monocytes activation and impair the body’s response to viral infections such as hepatitis C.”