Alcohol ingestion impairs host defenses predisposing otherwise healthy mice to Pneumocystis carinii infection

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1995 Oct;19(5):1219-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.1995.tb01604.x.


Pulmonary infection with Pneumocystis carinii, an opportunistic pathogen, is associated with a variety of immunosuppressive states, including human immunodeficiency virus infection. We hypothesized that alcohol ingestion might compromise host defenses against this pathogen and, in an immunocompromised host, increase the severity of infection. This hypothesis was tested in both acute and chronic ethanol-treated normal and CD4+ T-cell-depleted mice challenged with P. carinii organisms. Normal and CD4+ T-cell-depleted mice were given an intraperitoneal injection of ethanol or saline 0.5 hr before P. carinii challenge and killed 3 hr later for bronchoalveolar lavage. Acute alcohol treatment decreased significantly tumor necrosis factor (TNF) activity and the number of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNLs) recovered in the lavage in response to the pathogen. Depletion of CD4+ T-cells did not potentiate the effect of alcohol on the early inflammatory response to the pathogen any further. In normal animals, in vivo interferon (IFN)-gamma pretreatment augmented significantly the P. carinii-stimulated lung TNF response and PMNL recruitment. However, IFN-gamma pretreatment prevented the alcohol-induced suppression of TNF secretion without affecting the PMNL recruitment. The effect of chronic alcohol consumption on the severity of infection was studied in long-term, alcohol-fed normal and CD(4+)-depleted mice challenged with P. carinii organisms. Lung histopathology showed that P. carinii infection was present in > 60% of the alcohol-fed mice and in none of the controls. Also, a significantly higher number of PMNLs were recovered in the lavage fluid of alcohol-fed mice with persistent infection.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / immunology
  • Alcoholism / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology
  • Interferon-gamma / blood
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Opportunistic Infections / immunology*
  • Pneumonia, Pneumocystis / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interferon-gamma