Classification of alcohol abuse by plasma protein biomarkers

Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Aug 1;68(3):219-22. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.01.028. Epub 2010 Mar 17.


Background: Biochemical diagnostics of ethanol intake would improve alcohol abuse treatment and have applications in clinical trial and public safety settings. Self-reporting of alcohol use has clinical utility but lacks the desired reliability. Previously, proposed single-analyte biochemical tests of alcohol intake suffer from low sensitivity and specificity or examine only acute drinking and have therefore seen limited clinical use.

Methods: To address this unmet need, plasma protein biomarker discovery and validation were performed with an alcohol self-administering nonhuman primate model system to develop a diagnostic that accurately classifies subjects into nondrinking, nonabusive drinking, and abusive drinking categories.

Results: A 17-plasma protein panel was determined that correctly classifies abusive drinking with 100% sensitivity and also differentiates any level of drinking from alcohol abstinence with 88% accuracy.

Conclusions: The biomarker panel reflects changes in multiple organ systems and suggests robust changes in the plasma proteome with drinking that might serve as a sensitive and specific diagnostic test. The specific plasma proteins altered with alcohol self-administration might represent indicators of alcohol-induced stress on a variety of organ systems.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / blood*
  • Alcoholism / classification
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Proteins / analysis*
  • Blood Proteins / classification
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Protein Array Analysis / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Proteins