Alcohol abuse increases the risk of suffering from pneumonia

A decrease of the activity of the immune system, which affects both alcoholic and ex-alcoholic individuals, would be responsible for the increase of risk of suffering from pneumonia

This press release is also available in Spanish.

The results of a paper published in the journal Chest (129(5):1219-25) show that alcoholic and ex-alcoholic individuals have a higher risk of suffering from community acquired pneumonia. Although mortality did not differ significantly, an increase of the severeness of the disease was shown, and consequently, an increase of the morbidity and the complications was revealed. This study was conducted by the Pneumonia Multidiscipline Group of Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, led by Dr. Antoni Torres, from the Institut Clínic del Tórax, and leader of the IDIBAPS Group Management and Prevention of the Pulmonary Disease.

The increase of the risk of suffering from pneumonia in alcoholic patients exists due to the fact that the activity of their immune system decreases. This decrease not only is observed in alcoholic, but also in ex alcoholic patients. The daily quantity of alcohol consumption in order to include patients in the group of alcohol abuse was of 80 g in man and 60 g in women, the equivalent of 2 or 3 beers and 3 or 4 cups of wine.

Results are especially relevant since alcohol is the more abused drug in Spain, and causes a total of 12,000 deaths every year. In addition, pneumonia is a very frequent disease, with 10 patients every 1,000 inhabitants in Catalonia. This number is much higher if we take into account in the population over 65. This is the reason why the consequences of this study, and the possible vaccination of alcoholic of ex-alcoholic individuals against Pneumococcus, would affect a very high number of people. Alcohol consumption could turn into a new risk factor or a worsening factor to take into account in cases of community acquired pneumonia.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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