Chronic alcohol abuse and HIV disease progression: studies with the non-human primate model

Curr HIV Res. 2014;12(4):243-53. doi: 10.2174/1570162x12666140721115717.


The populations at risk for HIV infection, as well as those living with HIV, overlap with populations that engage in heavy alcohol consumption. Alcohol use has been associated with high-risk sexual behavior and an increased likelihood of acquiring HIV, as well as poor outcome measures of disease such as increased viral loads and declines in CD4+ T lymphocytes among those living with HIV-infections. It is difficult to discern the biological mechanisms by which alcohol use affects the virus:host interaction in human populations due to the numerous variables introduced by human behavior. The rhesus macaque infected with simian immunodeficiency virus has served as an invaluable model for understanding HIV disease and transmission, and thus, provides an ideal model to evaluate the effects of chronic alcohol use on viral infection and disease progression in a controlled environment. In this review, we describe the different macaque models of chronic alcohol consumption and summarize the studies conducted with SIV and alcohol. Collectively, they have shown that chronic alcohol consumption results in higher levels of plasma virus and alterations in immune cell populations that potentiate SIV replication. They also demonstrate a significant impact of chronic alcohol use on SIV-disease progression and survival. These studies highlight the utility of the rhesus macaque in deciphering the biological effects of alcohol on HIV disease. Future studies with this well-established model will address the biological influence of alcohol use on susceptibility to HIV, as well as the efficacy of anti-retroviral therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression*
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / virology
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus / growth & development
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus / immunology