Alcoholic lung disease

Alcohol Res Health. 2008;31(1):66-75.


In addition to its well-known association with lung infection (i.e., pneumonia), alcohol abuse now is recognized as an independent factor that increases by three- to four-fold the incidence of the acute respiratory distress syndrome, a severe form of acute lung injury with a mortality rate of 40 to 50 percent. This translates to tens of thousands of excess deaths in the United States each year from alcohol-mediated lung injury, which is comparable to scarring of the liver (i.e., cirrhosis) in terms of alcohol-related mortality. Experimental and clinical studies are shedding light on the basic mechanisms by which alcohol abuse predisposes some people to both acute lung injury and pneumonia. At the same time, novel therapeutic targets could be utilized in treating these uniquely vulnerable people. However, there have been no systems biological approaches to the study of the alcoholic lung to date. This is in part because the association between alcohol abuse and acute lung injury was made relatively recently and remains largely unrecognized, even by lung researchers. In parallel, efforts to study complex diseases such as acute lung injury and pneumonia using a genomics and/or proteomics approach, which involves the study of an organism's genes and/or proteins, still are in their infancy. However, the alcoholic lung represents a clear example of environment-host interactions that should be well suited for such applications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Lung Injury / diagnosis
  • Acute Lung Injury / etiology
  • Acute Lung Injury / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Lung Diseases / etiology*
  • Lung Diseases / physiopathology
  • Pneumonia / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia / etiology
  • Pneumonia / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / etiology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / physiopathology