Alcohol's Effects on Lung Health and Immunity

Alcohol Res. 2015;37(2):199-208.


It has long been known that people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) not only may develop physical dependence but also may experience devastating long-term health problems. The most common and identifiable alcohol-associated health problems include liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cardiomyopathies, neuropathies, and dementia. However, the lung also is adversely affected by alcohol abuse, a fact often overlooked by clinicians and the public. Individuals with AUD are more likely to develop pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection, and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Increased susceptibility to these and other pulmonary infections is caused by impaired immune responses in people with AUD. The key immune cells involved in combating pulmonary conditions such as pneumonia, TB, RSV infection, and ARDS are neutrophils, lymphocytes, alveolar macrophages, and the cells responsible for innate immune responses. Researchers are only now beginning to understand how alcohol affects these cells and how these effects contribute to the pathophysiology of pulmonary diseases in people with AUD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / immunology*
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Lung / immunology*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / immunology
  • Pneumonia / complications
  • Pneumonia / immunology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / complications
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / complications
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / immunology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / complications
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / complications
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / immunology*