Acute binge drinking increases serum endotoxin and bacterial DNA levels in healthy individuals

PLoS One. 2014 May 14;9(5):e96864. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096864. eCollection 2014.


Binge drinking, the most common form of alcohol consumption, is associated with increased mortality and morbidity; yet, its biological consequences are poorly defined. Previous studies demonstrated that chronic alcohol use results in increased gut permeability and increased serum endotoxin levels that contribute to many of the biological effects of chronic alcohol, including alcoholic liver disease. In this study, we evaluated the effects of acute binge drinking in healthy adults on serum endotoxin levels. We found that acute alcohol binge resulted in a rapid increase in serum endotoxin and 16S rDNA, a marker of bacterial translocation from the gut. Compared to men, women had higher blood alcohol and circulating endotoxin levels. In addition, alcohol binge caused a prolonged increase in acute phase protein levels in the systemic circulation. The biological significance of the in vivo endotoxin elevation was underscored by increased levels of inflammatory cytokines, TNFα and IL-6, and chemokine, MCP-1, measured in total blood after in vitro lipopolysaccharide stimulation. Our findings indicate that even a single alcohol binge results in increased serum endotoxin levels likely due to translocation of gut bacterial products and disturbs innate immune responses that can contribute to the deleterious effects of binge drinking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute-Phase Proteins / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Bacterial Translocation
  • Binge Drinking / blood*
  • Binge Drinking / microbiology
  • Binge Drinking / physiopathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chemokine CCL2 / blood
  • DNA, Bacterial / blood*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / drug effects*
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / blood*
  • Sex Factors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood


  • Acute-Phase Proteins
  • CCL2 protein, human
  • Chemokine CCL2
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Ethanol