In the battle against infection, the human body has an army of cells ready to fight. But that army can be weakened by alcohol. Alcoholics in particular are more susceptible to sepsis, an infection that can be fatal. Researchers have investigated why in mice. During infection, immune cells called neutrophils release structures called NETs that trap bacteria ready for destruction. The team isolated mouse neutrophils (pictured) exposed them to salt water (left) or alcohol (right) and infected them with bacteria. The alcohol-treated neutrophils weren’t able to release NETs, impairing destruction of the bacteria. The same happened in infected mice, and these detrimental effects could be reduced by increasing levels of a protein called CXCL1 that attracts neutrophils. The next question to answer is whether chronic alcohol abuse has the same effects as sudden exposure to alcohol and whether CXCL1 could be just as useful here.
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