Heavy Drinking May Speed Progression to AIDS

Alcohol abuse accelerated time to end-stage disease by a factor of 2.5

TUESDAY, Sept. 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Heavy drinking may speed up the time to developing AIDS, possibly by damaging the immune system, new animal research suggests.

Reporting in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center set out to determine how chronic binge drinking might affect the progression to AIDS.

For 12 weeks, they fed alcohol to 16 rhesus macaques (often called rhesus monkeys) for five hours, four consecutive days per week to simulate chronic binge drinking. They fed another 16 rhesus macaques a sucrose solution under the same conditions.

Then they injected eight of the rhesus macaques in each group with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a virus that mimics what happens to humans affected with HIV.

The researchers found that chronic binge drinking accelerated the time to AIDS in the rhesus macaques infected with SIV, with the average time to end-stage disease decreasing from 900 days in the control animals to 374 days in those exposed to alcohol.

"Because SIV infection in rhesus macaques is so similar to what happens in HIV-infected humans, we can expect that alcohol would have similar consequences in humans," study author Gregory Bagby, professor of physiology and medicine, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about HIV and AIDS.

SOURCE: Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, news release, Sept. 24, 2006
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