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Chronic binge drinking can hasten HIV development

Infections like pneumonia can be caused when a person’s immune system is damaged by alcohol abuse. People already infected with human immunodeficiency virus// (HIV) seem to indulge in heavy drinking more than the population all together. Recent study reveals that constant heavy drinking can quicken the advancement of end-stage simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) among rhesus macaques. The same may be the case in humans infected with HIV. The October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research features the results of the study.

"Previous research has found that HIV-infected people are more likely to consume alcohol than the general population," said Gregory J. Bagby, professor of physiology and medicine at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and corresponding author for the study. "One very recent study conducted in Miami, for example, found that more than 60 percent of its HIV-infected participants reported heavy alcohol use." Bagby said that the protracted nature of HIV disease, along with the complex behaviors of HIV+ patients, makes the study of alcohol consumption or abuse on HIV-disease progression extremely difficult.

"While alcohol abuse is known to impair immune defenses," he said, "resulting in a higher incidence and severity of infections – especially pneumonia – the adverse consequences of heavy alcohol consumption on the HIV-infected patient as it relates to disease progression are poorly understood. The few studies that exist have failed to find an association between alcohol use and HIV disease progression. For this reason, we adopted the rhesus macaque SIV model of HIV disease in order to more effectively isolate the effect of alcohol consumption on infectivity, pathogenesis and progression."

"The key issue with alcohol consumption and HIV/AIDS is when to start individuals on life-saving antiretrovirals versus the need to avoid their toxic effects that damage the liver and gut along with the al
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