To determine the pure effects of prolonged alcohol ingestion on host defenses, we studied six noncirrhotic alcoholic volunteers drinking in the Clinical Research Center. All had tests of granulocyte, humoral, and cell-mediated immune function before and at the end of eight to 28 days' intake of approximately 0.75 liter of 100-proof whiskey per day. Results of all tests were normal during the drinking period, except for the following: (1) granulocyte chemotaxis was depressed in three volunteers and improved on alcohol withdrawal; (2) antibody response to keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) immunization was poor; and (3) delayed hypersensitivity could not be established to KLH. Although it is somewhat surprising that more abnormalities were not induced, the three defects noted may contribute to the alcoholic's poor resistance to infection.
(Arch Intern Med 137:1539-1543, 1977)