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Binge Drinkers Heal More Slowly

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

binge drinkersPeople who are injured while binge drinking are slower to heal from their wounds, and a new study has provided insights as to why alcohol has a negative effect on wound healing.[1] Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine researchers found that binge drinking alcohol significantly reduces the levels of certain key components of the immune system that are involved with healing.1

The study was conducted by senior author Katherine A. Radek, PhD, and colleagues from Loyola’s Alcohol Research Program and the Infectious Disease and Immunology Research Institute.1 Their study is published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.1

In the United States alone, alcohol dependence and abuse affects 20 to 40 percent of hospitalized patients.1 Alcohol can increase the risk of infections while in the hospital, especially surgical site infections.1 Oftentimes, patients who undergo surgery are hospitalized for twice as long if they are binge drinkers, and have a higher rate of re-admission.1 They are also twice as likely to die compared with patients who do not binge drink.1

Binge alcohol exposure reduces the amount of white blood cells, called macrophages, that eat bacteria and debris.1 Therefore, this defect makes wounds more likely to be infected by bacteria.1

The study found that binge alcohol exposure impairs the production of a protein that recruits macrophages to the wound site, as well as reduces levels of another key component of the immune system, called CRAMP (cathelicidin-related antimicrobial peptide).1 CRAMP is a protein that is present in the outermost layers of the skin, killing bacteria and recruiting macrophages and other immune system cells to the site of the wound.1

“Together these effects likely contribute to delayed wound closure and enhanced infection severity observed in intoxicated patients,” said the researchers.1

The study involved a typical pattern of binge drinking: three days of alcohol exposure followed by four days of no alcohol exposure followed again by three days of alcohol exposures.1 The binge alcohol exposures were equivalent to approximately twice the legal limit for driving.1



[1] Loyola University Health System. (2014, April 8). Why binge drinkers are slower to heal from their wounds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140408154109.htm

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