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Biomolecules. 2015 Jun 29;5(3):1339-85. doi: 10.3390/biom5031339.

Biomolecules and Biomarkers Used in Diagnosis of Alcohol Drinking and in Monitoring Therapeutic Interventions.

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In Vitro Drug Safety and Biotechnology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5G 0A3, Canada.
In Vitro Drug Safety and Biotechnology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5G 0A3, Canada.
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5G 0A3, Canada.



The quantitative, measurable detection of drinking is important for the successful treatment of alcohol misuse in transplantation of patients with alcohol disorders, people living with human immunodeficiency virus that need to adhere to medication, and special occupational hazard offenders, many of whom continually deny drinking. Their initial misconduct usually leads to medical problems associated with drinking, impulsive social behavior, and drunk driving. The accurate identification of alcohol consumption via biochemical tests contributes significantly to the monitoring of drinking behavior.


A systematic review of the current methods used to measure biomarkers of alcohol consumption was conducted using PubMed and Google Scholar databases (2010-2015). The names of the tests have been identified. The methods and publications that correlate between the social instruments and the biochemical tests were further investigated. There is a clear need for assays standardization to ensure the use of these biochemical tests as routine biomarkers.


Alcohol ingestion can be measured using a breath test. Because alcohol is rapidly eliminated from the circulation, the time for detection by this analysis is in the range of hours. Alcohol consumption can alternatively be detected by direct measurement of ethanol concentration in blood or urine. Several markers have been proposed to extend the interval and sensitivities of detection, including ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate in urine, phosphatidylethanol in blood, and ethyl glucuronide and fatty acid ethyl esters in hair, among others. Moreover, there is a need to correlate the indirect biomarker carbohydrate deficient transferrin, which reflects longer lasting consumption of higher amounts of alcohol, with serum γ-glutamyl transpeptidase, another long term indirect biomarker that is routinely used and standardized in laboratory medicine.


alcohol; biomarkers; breath test; carbohydrate deficient transferrin; drinking; ethyl glucuronide; ethyl sulfate; fatty acid ethyl esters; phosphatidylethanol

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