Oropharynx microbiota among alcoholics and non-alcoholics

Sao Paulo Med J. May-Jun 1998;116(3):1727-33. doi: 10.1590/s1516-31801998000300007.


Context: The oropharynx microbiota plays an important role in the origin of infections, especially among alcoholics whose airway defenses are impaired.

Objective: To compare the normal oropharingeal flora in heavy alcohol drinker and non-alcoholics.

Patients: 117 persons, 58 heavy alcohol drinkers and 59 non-alcoholics.

Setting: Santa Casa de São Paulo Emergency Service.

Design: A blind prospective study.

Main outcomes measures: Prevalence of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, and fungi.

Results: The study of the oropharynx microbiota among heavy alcohol drinkers demonstrated the presence of anaerobic microorganisms in 84.5% of them, including: Bacteroides sp, Prevotella melaninogenica, Fusobacterium sp, Veilonella sp, Peptostreptococcus sp, Propionibacterium sp, Bifidobacterium sp and Clostridium sp, versus 30.5% (p < 0.005) of non-alcoholics. Candida sp was present in 34.5% of heavy alcohol drinkers and 5.1% of non-alcoholics (p < 0.005). Enterobacteria predominated among heavy alcohol drinkers (25%) compared with non-alcoholics (5.5%) only in the age group 14 to 34 years (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Based upon these results, it was possible to conclude that the knowledge of the oropharynx microbiota among heavy drinkers and non-alcoholics has an important predictive value concerning probable etiologic agents of lower airway infections. Infections caused by anaerobic microorganisms and fungi should be taken into consideration during the choice of empirical therapy for heavy alcohol drinkers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / microbiology*
  • Bacteria, Aerobic / isolation & purification*
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / isolation & purification*
  • Bacterial Infections / etiology
  • Enterobacter / isolation & purification
  • Female
  • Fungi / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oropharynx / microbiology*
  • Respiration Disorders / complications
  • Respiration Disorders / microbiology