Moderate Alcohol Consumption Enhances Vaccine-Induced Responses in Rhesus Macaques

Vaccine. 2013 Dec 17;32(1):54-61. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.10.076. Epub 2013 Nov 6.


We have recently shown that chronic alcohol consumption in a rhesus macaque model of ethanol self-administration significantly modulates the serum cytokine profile. In this study, we extended these observations by investigating the impact of chronic ethanol exposure on the immune response to Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA). All animals were vaccinated with MVA before ethanol exposure to ethanol and then again after 7 months of 22 h/day of "open-access" drinking of 4% (w/v) ethanol. Our results indicate that animals whose blood ethanol concentration (BEC) chronically exceeded 80 mg/dl had lower CD4 and CD8 T cell proliferation as well as IgG responses following MVA booster than control animals. In contrast, relatively moderate drinkers whose BEC remained below 80 mg/ml exhibited more robust MVA-specific IgG and CD8 T cell responses than controls. To begin to uncover mechanisms underlying the differences in MVA-specific responses between the three groups, we analyzed plasma cytokine levels and microRNA expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells following MVA booster. Our findings suggest that moderate ethanol consumption results in higher levels of antiviral cytokines and an expression profile of microRNAs linked to CD8 T cell differentiation. In summary, moderate alcohol consumption enhances recall vaccine responses, whereas chronic alcohol intoxication suppresses this response.

Keywords: Antibody; Cytokine; Ethanol; MVA; Macaque; MicroRNA; T cell; Vaccine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Homeostasis
  • Immunization
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Macaca mulatta / immunology*
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • Vaccinia / immunology*
  • Vaccinia / prevention & control*
  • Vaccinia virus / immunology*
  • Viral Vaccines / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Cytokines
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • MVA vaccine
  • MicroRNAs
  • Viral Vaccines
  • Ethanol