Immune changes in alcohol-dependent patients without medical disorders

Steven J. Schleifer, Steven E. Keller, Samuel Shiflett, Tonya Benton, Haftan Eckholdt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Introduction: We examined a battery of in vitro immune measures in inner city alcohol-dependent (as determined by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R (SCID) persons who were without liver or other medical disorders and free of other substance abuse. These subjects were seeking treatment at an ambulatory alcohol treatment center. Methods: Alcohol- dependent subjects (n = 44) were compared with healthy, nonabusing community subjects (n = 34). Subjects, both male and female, had a mean age of 41 years and were primarily African American. Many were homeless. An extended battery of enumerative and functional immune measures was obtained, as well as information about alcohol consumption. Results: Controlling for age and gender, ANCOVA revealed no differences (p > 0.1) between alcohol-dependent and control subjects in leukocyte and lymphocyte subsets or in circulating CD56+ (natural killer) cells. There were also no significant differences in responses to the mitogens phytohemagglutinin, concanavalin A, or pokeweed mitogen (p > 0.1) or in natural killer cell activity (p > 0.1). There was, however, altered granulocyte function in the alcohol-dependent sample, with decreased phagocytic activity in the alcohol-dependent males (p < 0.04) and gender and age dependent differences in the number of circulating granulocytes (p < 0.01). Granulocyte killing of Staphylococcus aureus, however, did not differ between the groups. Conclusions: The findings suggest that although males with chronic alcohol dependence have compromised phagocytic function, chronic alcohol-dependent subjects who are free of medical disorders do not have substantial abnormalities in many immune system functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1199-1206
Number of pages8
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Alcohol
  • Chronic
  • Dependence
  • Healthy
  • Immunity


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