Alcohol use disorder could be a risk factor for severe COVID-19

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In a study from Rush University, scientists suggest chronic alcohol misuse such as alcohol use disorder may be an overlooked risk factor for severe or fatal COVID-19.

From Dec. 2019-January 2020, a pneumonia illness designated as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was shown to be caused by a novel RNA coronavirus designated as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Researchers have found that older people, men, and people with other health problems (obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, and chronic lung disease) have higher risks of severe COVID-19 and death.

These risk factors affect the immune system and are also linked to poor health, chronic illness, and shortened longevity.

However, many patients without these known risk factors also get severe COVID-19 disease that leads to death.

Scientists suggest that there must exist risk factors that promote exaggerated inflammatory and immune responses to the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing death.

In this review, researchers suggest that one such risk factor may be alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorder because these can exacerbate viral lung infections like SARS, influenza, and pneumonia.

Therefore, it is very plausible that alcohol misuse is a risk factor for either increased infection rate when people are exposed to the COVID-19 virus and/or more severe COVID-19 in infected patients.

Alcohol use is a well-known risk factor for lung diseases and ARDS in SARS patients.

The team in the review suggests that alcohol has three key pathogenic elements in common with other COVID-19 severity risk factors: namely, inflammatory microbiota dysbiosis, leaky gut, and systemic activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome.

They also propose that these three elements represent targets for therapy for severe COVID-19.

The study was conducted by Christopher B. Forsyth et al and published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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