No Hangovers? Probiotic Could Treat Effects Of Alcohol

Daniel Patrick
4 Min Read

Hangovers from binge drinking can cause enduring pains such as severe headaches, nausea, depression and anxiety. But scientists have found a way of using a probiotic to treat the symptoms of alcohol consumption. Could this mean all the fun and no downsides of drinking?

A Breakthrough Treatment

The Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Zoology has genetically engineered a probiotic that could relieve both short and long-term alcohol-related symptoms, such as hangovers and liver diseases.

The study, which was conducted on mice, found that those treated with the probiotic had significantly fewer symptoms than those untreated.

The probiotic contains the gene for human ADH1B (Alcohol Dehydrogenase 1B), an enzyme that metabolises alcohol, which is delivered using the bacterium Lactococcus lactis.

80% of East Asian populations share a genetically inherited deficiency of alcohol dehydrogenase. This means they are more likely to develop colon and liver cancer, immune deficiency and digestive diseases, and could indicate the key incentives behind the study.

The Study

The researchers encapsulated the probiotic to ensure survival against stomach acid, then tested it on three groups of five mice, exposing each group to different levels of alcohol.

Probiotic-treated mice showed fewer signs of drunken behaviour, lower levels of blood alcohol levels after two hours and lower levels of lipids and triglycerides in their livers compared with the untreated group.

If the probiotic confers the same benefits to humans, it could change the way we approach treating the damages of alcohol consumption.

“We believe that genetically engineered probiotics will provide new ideas for the treatment of liver diseases” – Meng Dong, PhD, Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Zoology

The probiotic could be a significant development in the field of healthcare and biotechnology, laying the ground for a number of other potential treatments.

Previous studies on mice have shown viral vectors that can express ADH1B to also accelerate the breakdown of alcohol. However, they carry the risk of infecting healthy cells and triggering dangerous immune responses.

Probiotics, however, could provide a safer alternative to delivering these beneficial enzymes, and could also help to support gut health.

The next steps, Dong says, are human studies to determine the long-term effects of the probiotic treatment.

Concerns Of The Treatment

There are a number of concerns as to how this could change people’s perceptions and behaviour around alcohol.

Could this give people a sense of ‘empowerment’ to drink more alcohol?

Might this then lead to a spike in anti-social drunken behaviour?

Perhaps it could create complacency around the long-term health consequences of binge drinking?

Randomised, controlled trials in humans are crucial for understanding the effects this kind of treatment could have.

Stating The Obvious

One of the more obvious solutions to mitigating alcoholic damage would be to simply drink less alcohol.

But for many, this is not a straightforward approach, and treatments should be made available for those who wish to exercise their legal right to partake in occasional excessive (and responsible) drinking.


As exciting as these development are, it is important to be aware of the potential downsides of relying solely on probiotics to offset the negative effects of alcohol consumption.

While probiotics can certainly offer health benefits, they should not be seen as a substitute for a healthy lifestyle that includes moderated alcohol consumption, a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Nevertheless, the potential benefits of this treatment seem certainly worth further investment and exploration.

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