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One Binge Drinking Session Reduces Immune System Function for 24 Hours

posted 01:58 AM EST, Sat September 19, 2009
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One Binge Drinking Session Reduces Immune System Function for 24 Hours © Photo Credit: Dan Queiroz

Alcohol reduces the activity of a protein necessary for launching defensive immune system cytokines, leaving bingers at an increased risk of infection for up to 24 hours after heavy drinking.

US researchers say that that getting drunk knocks your immune system back, for about 24 hours.

Dr. Stephen Pruett out of Mississippi State University and Ruping Fan out of Louisiana State University investigated the effects of ethanol on immune system response, using live mice as an animal model, as well as test tube experiments. They found that ethanol exposure at binge drinking quantities inhibited the Toll Like Receptor 4 (TLR4); a receptor protein that plays a role in activating inflammatory cytokines. With TLR4 off the job, the immune system does not react as well to infectious attacks, and alcohol reduces TLR4 activation for 24 hours or longer.

Without sufficient pro-inflammatory cytokines, the body is vulnerable to opportunistic infections and bacteria.

Dr. Stephen Pruett told reporters that people are at an increased risk for infection long after the alcohol has cleared, saying, "The time frame during which the risk of infection is increased might be at least 24 hours."

The full study results can be found at the journal, BMC Immunology

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