A recent perspective on alcohol, immunity, and host defense

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2009 Feb;33(2):220-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2008.00842.x. Epub 2008 Dec 2.


Background: Multiple line of clinical and experimental evidence demonstrates that both acute, moderate, and chronic, excessive alcohol use result in various abnormalities in the functions of the immune system.

Methods: Medline and PubMed databases were used to identify published reports with particular interest in the period of 2000-2008 in the subject of alcohol use, infection, inflammation, innate, and adaptive immunity.

Results: This review article summarizes recent findings relevant to acute or chronic alcohol use-induced immunomodulation and its consequences on host defense against microbial pathogens and tissue injury. Studies with in vivo and in vitro alcohol administration are both discussed. The effects of alcohol on lung infections, trauma and burn injury, liver, pancreas, and cardiovascular diseases are evaluated with respect to the role of immune cells. Specific changes in innate immune response and abnormalities in adaptive immunity caused by alcohol intake are detailed.

Conclusion: Altered inflammatory cell and adaptive immune responses after alcohol consumption result in increased incidence and poor outcome of infections and other organ-specific immune-mediated effects.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / immunology*
  • Ethanol / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Immune System / immunology
  • Infections / immunology
  • Infections / pathology
  • Inflammation / pathology


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol