New study finds link between binge drinking and exposure to disease

Binge drinking can start affecting a person’s immune system within a single hour, according to groundbreaking international research that has just been released.

This is bad news for South Africa, which has one of the highest binge drinking problems globally.

The study, by the Loyola University Health System institute in Chicago, found that while drinking increased the chances of injury, it could also hamper the body’s ability to recovery from injuries.

It also meant that if you already had an infection, “binge drinking might make it worse, and it also might make you more susceptible to a new infection,” researcher Majid Ashfar said.

He and his team collected blood from volunteers who downed four to five shots of vodka. Blood was collected for analysis before drinking as well as 20 minutes, two hours, and five hours after drinking.

They found that being drunk changed the immune function for hours or days – the first time immediate effects of alcohol on the immune system had been observed.

University of Cape Town specialist scientist Dr Richard Matzopoulos said alcohol misuse and violence were “leading contributors to the burden of disease in South Africa”.

“South African drinkers rank among the top five riskiest drinkers in the world [by nationality].”

-Tanya Farber

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