Immune System Weakened by Binge Drinking

WASHINGTON – Binge drinking can weaken body’s ability to fight off infections for at least 24 hours afterwards, finds a new study.

Stephen Pruett, currently at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University, USA and Ruping Fan of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Centre, USA, focused their study on the effect of heavy drinking on toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), a protein that has an important role in immune system activation.

Previous research has shown that too much alcohol inhibits the body’s production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are signalling molecules that launch the inflammatory response to infection.

The new study conducted over mouse model has confirm that acute alcohol exposure prevents the body from producing certain key pro-inflammatory cytokines.

The researchers found that ethanol molecules suppress TLR4’s usual ability to send signals that would normally trigger the production of inflammatory cytokines.

Alcohol’s effects continue long after the party is over: some cytokines were still not on full duty guarding against infection 24 hours after the binge.

“The time frame during which the risk of infection is increased might be at least 24 hours,” said Pruett.

“A persistent effect of ethanol on cells is indicated, such that inhibition of the response of some cytokines occurs even after the ethanol is cleared,” he added.

The study is published in the open access journal BMC Immunology.

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