PORTLAND, Ore. Medical science has known for years that people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol actually have a reduced risk of death. In general, they are healthier and have better cardiovascular function that those who don't drink alcohol at all.
Now, new research from Oregon Health & Science University adds a fascinating twist: moderate drinking may actually bolster our immune system and help it fight off infection.
The research, published Dec. 17 in the journal Vaccine, not only opens a new window into scientific understanding of the immune system, it also could help scientists find new ways to improve the human body's ability to respond to vaccines and infections.
The scientists did their research in rhesus macaques, which have an immune system very similar to humans. To conduct the study, the researchers trained a group of 12 rhesus macaques to consume alcohol a 4 percent ethanol mixture of their own accord.
Researchers vaccinated the monkeys against small pox as part of the study. They then separated the animals into two groups those with access to the 4 percent ethanol and those with access to sugar water. All of the animals had regular access to pure water, and to food.
The researchers then monitored the animals' daily ethanol consumption for 14 months. And the animals were vaccinated again, seven months after the experiment began.
"Like humans, rhesus macaques showed highly variable drinking behavior," said Ilhem Messaoudi, the lead author of the paper, a former assistant professor at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at OHSU and assistant scientist in the Division of Pathobiology and Immunology at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and now an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of California, Riverside. "Some animals drank large volumes of ethanol, while others drank in moderation."
The monkeys' voluntary ethanol consumption segregat
|Contact: Todd Murphy|
Oregon Health & Science University