Effects of alcohol, HIV, and hepatitis C on immune system activation

It is a well-established fact that alcohol can exacerbate other diseases making them debilitating. It increases the recovery time, especially after burns, injury, or trauma. Additionally, it also dysregulates the anti-viral immune response, particularly in the liver, including response against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). According to a recent study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, excessive alcohol consumption by people with HIV or people living with HIV (PLWH) aggravates immune system activation and infection, especially amongst those who are also infected with HCV.

Independently, both HIV and alcohol consumption cause microbial translocation and exacerbate inflammation, however, the effect of alcohol consumption was unknown amongst PLWH. Through this study, the authors investigated how inherent immune activation and biomarkers of microbial translocation were affected by alcohol intake, HIV, and HCV comorbidity. The study was also directed to assess the theory that people with HIV have a higher level of biomarkers than HIV negative individuals who consumed a comparable amount of alcohol and also that alcohol aggravated biomarkers in HIV positive patients.

Emerging evidence has established that heavy consumption of alcohol impairs the immune system and causes microbial translocation. According to statistics, around 47 percent of PLWH reported alcohol consumption with 15 percent indulging in heavy usage in the past month. Therefore, there is a high probability that alcohol does worsen immune system dysfunction in people with HIV. Even amongst men with HIV, who indulge in moderate or low drinking, averaging just one drink a day, the rate of mortality is gradually increasing, according to the study. Alcohol consumption also interfered with the results of antiretroviral therapy which a person with HIV needs to undergo leading to lower compliance.

Participants classified based on number of drinks consumed per week

The study comprised of 109 participants who were enrolled from an immunology clinic that offered treatment to the HIV patients. The participants were between the ages of 21 and 70 years. Out of the total study population, 75 participants were infected with HIV whereas 34 were not. All the participants were screened, underwent chart review, and were classified in the following categories:

  • Nondrinkers: Those who did not consume alcohol at all
  • Moderate drinkers: Women who consumed 7 or less drinks per week; men who consumed 14 or less drinks per week
  • Heavy drinkers: Women who consumed more than 7 drinks per week; men who consumed more than 14 drinks per week

The HIV serostatus of the participants was documented by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) which was further confirmed by the plasma HIV RNA and the Western blot tests. Behavioral data and plasma samples were also received from all the participants. Further, participants with HIV were also screened for HCV. The participants were evaluated over a period of 5 years during 3 visits with an average time of 18 months between assessments. Altogether, 167 plasma samples were collected which were then analyzed.

Biomarker levels elevated in those infected

The Timeline Followback Interview (TLFB) method was used to collect data on drug and alcohol abuse within the last 3 months. The participants were asked to report the average amount of alcohol consumed per day and whether they used any form of illicit drug like cannabis, cocaine, stimulants, and/or sedatives, amongst others. Those who were identified with substance use disorder (SUD) were disqualified to continue for the study. The Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) was used to determine the presence of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Participants identified with remote AUD didn’t meet the criteria for current AUD but did meet the criteria for lifetime. MINI was also used to assess if the participants had SUD. Cigarette smoking was self-reported by the participants.

Elevated signs of HIV infection were noted in 3 biomarkers of immune activation and 1 of microbial translocation. Women showed higher levels of biomarker elevation than men. Lower LPS values were linked with old age and LBP was found to be associated with the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The connection between HCV and alcohol consumption was also examined in people with HIV. Alcohol use showed signs of aggravation in sCD163, the biomarker which was also significantly affected by HCV infection.

Alcohol use amongst those with HCV showed significant elevation in all biomarkers

Further, results of the study showed that there was an increase in the biomarker values of immune system activation and microbial translocation in PLWH compared to those without HIV. This proved that alcohol consumption amongst those with HIV aggravated immune activation and inflammation. Also, alcohol use amongst those with HCV as well showed significant elevation in all the biomarkers.

Road to recovery

After analyzing the findings, the researchers suggested that increased emphasis should be laid on reducing alcohol consumption amongst people living with HIV especially those diagnosed with HCV as well. This would significantly improve their treatment outcomes and also reduce mortality rates in this group.

Alcohol addiction is a scourge. It not only affects the mental health of a person, but also the physical health of an individual, aggravating prevalent diseases and also reducing quality of life. Therefore, it is important that an individual addicted to alcohol, seeks treatment at the earliest. To know more about the best rapid detox centers in California, contact the California Detox Helpline. Call our 24/7 rapid detox helpline 855-780-2495 or chat online with our treatment advisors to get complete information about NAD rapid detox.