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Study: Alcohol Makes You More Susceptible to Infection


Does your weekend include tipping back a few? If so, you may be calling in sick on Monday.

This new study out of University of Massachusetts Medical School shows that alcohol in addition to dulling judgement and cognitive skills, alcohol suppresses the immune system. This makes you more susceptible to illnesses beyond a morning hangover.

New Scientist has more:

Alcohol blunted the monocytes' [white blood cells',] defenses. When the over-the-limit cells were exposed to a virus mimic, they produced only a quarter as much of the virus-fighting signalling molecule called type-1 interferon as teetotal monocytes made.

"Interferon is pivotal, the first response to any viral infection," says [Gyongyi] Szabo. "There's no viral elimination without it."


Szabo says that the results fit with evidence from medical records that chronic heavy drinkers with HIV die sooner than non-drinkers. They also fit with earlier studies showing that the immune system of heavy drinkers might be less vigilant against cancer.

New Scientist goes on to report another researcher, Matt Hutchinson from the University of Adelaide, Australia, saying this confirms his studies that have shown chronic drinkers, post-mortem, have fewer immune system components in their blood. But Hutchinson also says, on the flip side, the monocytes may be related to several characteristics associated with being inebriated, such as clumsiness. When the a receptor on the white blood cells was blocked, the mice that were intoxicated became less clumsy.

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