Clinical laboratory

Diagnostic characteristics and application of alcohol biomarkers.

PMID 23724610


Alcohol biomarkers play a significant role in the early diagnosis of alcohol intoxication/abuse, alcohol-related organ damages, assessment of alcoholism therapy outcomes, and in forensic medicine. Laboratory detection of excessive alcohol consumption can be carried out by direct measuring of the ethanol and/or metabolites in biological samples which is of particular importance in the cases of acute ethanol intoxication/controlling and/or monitoring of alcohol consumption, or indirectly, by using biomarkers. Preferred diagnostic characteristics of alcohol biomarkers, specificity and sensitivity dependent on the particular demands such as: prevention and treatment of alcoholism in primary and social care, criminal justice, workplace health and safety screening, trafficking control, etc. Alcohol biomarkers traditionally used in clinical practice [blood alcohol concentration (BAC), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT), the ratio GGT/CDT, alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), the rati. AST/ALT, mean cbrpuscular volume (MCV), phosphatidylethanol (PEth)] are well validated. They are used as screening/monitoring markers of acute/chronic excessive alcohol intake, alcoholism in pregnancy, and other disorders/conditions related to alcohol abuse. Numerous potential alcohol biomarkers have been discovered, but few are validated. Potential alcohol biomarkers (ethanol and serotonin metabolites, sialic acids, etc.) have good diagnostic characteristics, but their application in clinical practice is limited due to the costly equipment necessary for their measurement. Significant progress has been made in the development of sensitive and practical alcohol transdermal devices that can instantly/continuously measure BAC through human skin. Transdermal sensing of alcohol may become a valuable method for monitoring abstinence. A special aspect of alcoholism is genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse and alcoholism, or alcohol-related organ damage. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have proposed several susceptibility loci for alcohol dependence.