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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1999 Jun;23(6):1039-43.

Sialic acid: new potential marker of alcohol abuse.

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Pharmacia & Upjohn AB Diagnostics, Alcohol Related Diseases, Uppsala, Sweden.



A number of laboratory markers are suggested for the detection and monitoring of alcohol abuse. However, there is still a need to find better indicators of alcohol abuse. Sialic acid (SA) is the name for a series of acyl-derivatives of neuraminic acids that occur as nonreducing terminal residues of glycoproteins or glycolipids in biological fluids and cell membranes. In this study, we investigated the diagnostic value of SA as a marker of alcohol abuse.


Sera from social drinkers (n = 38) and alcoholics (n = 77) were analyzed for sialic acid by a colorimetric assay and for carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) by a radioimmunoassay method. Mean corpuscular volume (MCV), gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT), aspartate aminotransferase (ASAT), and alanine aminotransferase (ALAT) were determined by using routine methods.


The sialic acid levels of both female and male subjects were significantly (p < 0.001) increased among alcoholic subjects when compared with social drinkers. SA levels were decreased after 3 weeks of treatment. The sensitivity and specificity for SA, respectively, were 57.7 and 95.5 for women and 47.8 and 81.3 for men. The respective values for CDT were 57.7 and 95.5 for women and 78.3 and 100.0 for men; for GGT, 60.0 and 95.5 for women and 60.9 and 87.5 for men; for MCV, 52.4 and 95.5 for women and 47.8 and 100.0 for men; for ASAT, 53.8 and 95.5 for women and 43.5 and 100.0 for men; and for ALAT, 38.5 and 90.9 for women and 39.1 and 87.5 for men. Among women, SA and GGT, and among men CDT, showed the largest area under receiver operation curve.


This study indicated that sialic acid levels were elevated by high alcohol consumption and reduced during abstinence, especially among women. Thus, sialic acid seems to be an interesting marker that needs further evaluation as a diagnostic tool for alcohol abuse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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