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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown Researchers Find Alcohol Predicts Elevation in Inflammatory Maker Soluble CD14 in Men Living with HIV

Among the 1.2 million people living with HIV infection in the United States, 65% used alcohol in the past year, and 15% reported binge drinking in the past month. Independently, HIV infection and heavy alcohol use promote microbial translocation, the movement of gut microbial products into systemic circulation. Gut immune dysfunction and microbial translocation are linked to chronic immune activation, a defining feature of HIV infection predicts disease progression independent of viral load. At the same time, alcohol and its metabolites cause microbial translocation by increasing gut permeability and promoting oxidative stress. However, previous research has not investigated the associations between immune activation and heavy drinking specifically within the HIV-positive population.


[Photo: Dr. Mollie A. Monnig]

The purpose of this study, led by Dr. Mollie A. Monnig, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and member of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, was to investigate microbial translocation and immune activation as a function of alcohol use in a sample of 21 heavy drinking, HIV-positive men.

Greater quantity and frequency of drinking significantly predicted higher sCH14 levels, a marker for immune activation. Conversely, longer duration of abstinence from alcohol significantly predicted lower sCD14 levels. These results remained significant after controlling for age, HIV duration, smoking status, current CD4 count, CD4 nadir, and antiretroviral drug type. In addition, participants with greater than 50% relative reduction in drinks per week showed a significant decrease in SCD14 from baseline to three-month follow-up.

The results of this study provide preliminary evidence that heavy drinking may increase a key inflammatory marker in HIV-infected individuals with suppressed infection. As such, sCD14 may have potential as a biomarker to monitor alcohol-related immune consequences, and reducing drinking may have a beneficial effect on immune status in this vulnerable population.

This study was published in AIDS Care, Volume 28, Issue 11, 2016.

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