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May 15, 2014 05:51 PM EDT

One Episode Of Binge Drinking Can Have Significant Negative Health Effects

A single episode of binge drinking can adversely affect health, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that a single episode of binge drinking can result in bacteria leaking from the gut, leading to increased levels of toxins in the blood.  Their findings suggest that these bacterial toxins, called endotoxins, can cause the body to produce immune cells involved in fever, inflammation, and tissue destruction.

"We found that a single alcohol binge can elicit an immune response, potentially impacting the health of an otherwise healthy individual," Gyongyi Szabo, lead author of the study and professor of medicine, vice chair of the Department of Medicine and associate dean for clinical and translational sciences at UMMS, said in a statement. "Our observations suggest that an alcohol binge is more dangerous than previously thought."

Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08g/dL or above, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. For an adult, this corresponds with consuming five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in about two hours, depending on body weight.

For the study, researchers recruited 11 men and 14 women. The study participants were given enough to raise their blood alcohol levels to at least .08 g/dl within an hour. Blood samples were then taken every 30 minutes for four hours after and again 24 hours later.

They found that the alcohol binge resulted in a rapid increase in endotoxin levels, which are toxins contained in the cell wall of certain bacteria that are released when the cell is destroyed. They also found evidence of bacterial DNA in the bloodstream, "showing that bacteria had permeated the gut," researchers said.

The findings were recently published in in PLOS ONE.

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