“Heavy alcohol use is a risk factor for an impaired immune system and increases a person’s susceptibility to active TB infection and reactivation of latent disease,” Parry told the third South African TB conference yesterday.
Not only does alcohol weaken a person’s ability to fight TB, but it also “influences social mixing patterns”, bringing the drinker into “bars and shebeens, shelters for homeless persons, prisons and other social institutions” where the risk of TB exposure is high, said Parry.
Russia has both high rates of alcohol consumption and high TB, and efforts to reduce drinking during president Mikhail Gorbachev’s era also reduced TB deaths, said Parry.
South Africans are also renowned for our alcohol consumption, and around half a million citizens are estimated to get TB every year.
South Africa has the third-worst burden of TB cases in the world after India and China.
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