October 6, 2006 (Reuters Health)—Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) disease appears to progress more rapidly in rhesus macaques that have been regularly subjected to ethanol intoxication, researchers report. They say the effect could be similar in people infected with HIV.

As lead investigator Dr. Gregory J. Bagby told Reuters Health, “Our study shows that alcohol consumption accelerated SIV disease progression in association with higher viral loads.”

Dr. Bagby of Louisiana State University, New Orleans and colleagues gave macaques alcohol for 5 hours per day, four days per week. At 3 months, these and control animals given isocaloric sucrose continued with their regimens and were inoculated intravenously with SIV at a dose 10,000 times greater than the ID50.

The team reports the results in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. During the early asymptomatic stage of the disease, plasma SIV RNA was higher in the alcohol group than in controls, but not later.

“This increase in viral set point was associated with more rapid progression to end stage disease,” the researchers report. End stage disease occurred at a median of 374 days in the alcohol group and 900 days in the sucrose group.

Dr. Bagby pointed out that “there are many reasons why people should moderate alcohol consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle.”

“This study,” he concluded, “shows that this is especially true for people infected with HIV. For the person infected with HIV or at risk of infection by HIV, alcohol consumption could accelerate the early course of the disease and impact disease progression to AIDS and death.”

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