Aliphatic alcohols in spirits inhibit phagocytosis by human monocytes

Pal, L; Arnyas, EM; Bujdoso, O; Baranyi, G; Racz, G; Adany, R; McKee, M; Szuecs, S; (2015) Aliphatic alcohols in spirits inhibit phagocytosis by human monocytes. Immunopharmacology and immunotoxicology, 37 (2). pp. 193-201. ISSN 0892-3973 DOI:

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A large volume of alcoholic beverages containing aliphatic alcohols is consumed worldwide. Previous studies have confirmed the presence of ethanol-induced immunosuppression in heavy drinkers, thereby increasing susceptibility to infectious diseases. However, the aliphatic alcohols contained in alcoholic beverages might also impair immune cell function, thereby contributing to a further decrease in microbicidal activity. Previous research has shown that aliphatic alcohols inhibit phagocytosis by granulocytes but their effect on human monocytes has not been studied. This is important as they play a crucial role in engulfment and killing of pathogenic microorganisms and a decrease in their phagocytic activity could lead to impaired antimicrobial defence in heavy drinkers. The aim of this study was to measure monocyte phagocytosis following their treatment with those aliphatic alcohols detected in alcoholic beverages. Monocytes were separated from human peripheral blood and phagocytosis of opsonized zymosan particles by monocytes treated with ethanol and aliphatic alcohols individually and in combination was determined. It was shown that these alcohols could suppress the phagocytic activity of monocytes in a concentration-dependent manner and when combined with ethanol, they caused a further decrease in phagocytosis. Due to their additive effects, it is possible that they may inhibit phagocytosis in a clinically meaningful way in alcoholics and episodic heavy drinkers thereby contribute to their increased susceptibility to infectious diseases. However, further research is needed to address this question.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Health Services Research and Policy
Research Centre: ECOHOST - The Centre for Health and Social Change
PubMed ID: 25689949
Web of Science ID: 351231300009


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