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Heavy drinking can hasten the progression of the simian immunodeficiency virus disease

  • Alcohol abuse can impair a person's immune system.
  • Alcohol abuse is also very common among individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • New findings indicate that heavy drinking can accelerate time to AIDS among rhesus macaques infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV).

Alcohol abuse can impair a person's immune system, leading to infections like pneumonia. Alcohol abuse is also more common among individuals already infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) than among the population as a whole. New research findings show that chronic binge drinking can accelerate the progression of end-stage simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) among rhesus macaques, likely mimicking what happens to humans infected with HIV.

Results are published in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Previous research has found that HIV-infected people are more likely to consume alcohol than the general population," said Gregory J. Bagby, professor of physiology and medicine at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and corresponding author for the study. "One very recent study conducted in Miami, for example, found that more than 60 percent of its HIV-infected participants reported heavy alcohol use."

Bagby said that the protracted nature of HIV disease, along with the complex behaviors of HIV+ patients, makes the study of alcohol consumption or abuse on HIV-disease progression extremely difficult.

"While alcohol abuse is known to impair immune defenses," he said, "resulting in a higher incidence and severity of infections especially pneumonia the adverse consequences of heavy alcohol consumption on the HIV-infected patient as it relates to disease progression are poorly understood. The few studies that exist have failed to find an association between alcohol use and HIV disease progression. For this reason, we adopted the rhesus macaque
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24-Sep-2006


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