Background: Periodontitis and immune dysfunction are often reported in alcohol-dependent patients. Our objectives were to investigate the effects of alcohol exposure on neutrophil function and the associated consequential effects on the periodontium in a group of African American (AA) males with documented history of alcohol use without medical complications. Methods: Thirty-three AA males with documented history of alcohol use were included in this analysis. All subjects were free from systemic illness. Blood levels of gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGTP) were determined and used as a measure of alcohol consumption. Periodontal evaluations including attachment levels (AL) were recorded on 6 sites per tooth. Enumerative and functional neutrophil measures were obtained. Results: GGTP blood levels inversely associated with neutrophil bacterial killing (NBK) (p = 0.04). Regression analysis, adjusting for risk factors associated with periodontitis, showed an inverse association between NBK and percent of sites with AL ≥ 5 mm (p < 0.05) and a direct significant interaction between GGTP (> 51 international units) and increasing NBK activity on percent of sites with AL ≥ 5 mm (p < 0.05). Conclusions: In AA males with excessive alcohol use, neutrophils show depressed NBK. Depressed NBK was not associated with loss of periodontal attachment in this population. Furthermore, AA males with excessive alcohol use and uncompromised neutrophil function are at greater risk of periodontal tissue damage.
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