Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School looked at the effect of alcohol on monocytes collected from the blood of healthy volunteers. The group, led by Prof Gyongyi Szabo, focussed specifically on two disease related pathways – the first (Toll-like receptor 8 – TLR8) stimulated by single strand RNA viral attack and the second (TLR4) is involved in recognising bacteria.
Their results showed that, as expected, activation of these pathways resulted in an increase in the levels of the anti-viral cytokine IFN, however this was reduced by treatment with alcohol equivalent to four or five drinks a day for seven days. Similarly stimulation of these pathways resulted in an increase in the levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα. However, while a single treatment with alcohol decreased the amount of TNFα, prolonged treatment increased levels of inflammation.