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Alcohol Increases Oral Infection Risk

Alcohol Increases Oral Infection Risk


Exposing cells from the mouth to alcohol'even at concentrations similar to those in beer and wine'can make them more suspectible to HIV infection, according to a study in the December 1 issue of Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, Dental Institute exposed oral epithelial cells from HIV-negative adults to various concentrations of ethanol, then exposed them to a strain of HIV engineered to be easily detectable. Cells exposed to a 4% alcohol solution'similar to the concentration in beer'for 10 minutes showed a three-fold to six-fold greater susceptibility to infection than unexposed cells. Further analysis showed the boosted infection risk was linked directly to alcohol's effect on the cells and not on the virus. The researchers say they are unclear how HIV entered the cells, since they lack a key receptor necessary for HIV attachment. They theorize, though, that alcohol either alters the cellular membranes to allow viral entry or interacts with key proteins to enable cellular fusion and infection.

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