Background: While alcohol consumption is known to increase the incidence and severity of infections, the impact of alcohol consumption on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease progression has been difficult to assess. Therefore, we examined the effect of ethanol on simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) disease progression in a well-defined model utilizing rhesus macaques.
Methods: Alcohol was administered for 5 hours via an indwelling intragastric catheter to achieve an alcohol concentration of 50 to 60 mM for 4 consecutive days per week for the duration of the study. Control animals received isocaloric sucrose. After 3 months, animals were inoculated intravenously with 10,000 times the ID(50) of SIV(DeltaB670) and followed to end-stage disease.
Results: Plasma SIV ribonucleic acid (RNA) was higher in alcohol-consuming animals compared with sucrose-treated animals during the early asymptomatic stage of disease but not at later time points. This increase in viral set point was associated with more rapid progression to end-stage disease in macaques administered alcohol (median=374 days) compared with sucrose (median=900 days). The decline in blood CD4+ cells was similar in both groups of animals.
Conclusions: This study indicates that frequent episodes of alcohol intoxication in SIV+ macaques increase viral set point in association with more rapid development of end-stage disease.