Latest scientific news 19 November 2020

Another piece in the puzzle – simple method to remove alcohol from the blood?

A team of Canadian researchers has presented the concept of a simple method that could become a game-changer in rescue therapy for severe alcohol intoxication. Normally, 90% of the alcohol in the human body is cleared exclusively by the liver at constant rate that cannot be increased. Currently there is no other method, short of dialysis, whereby alcohol can be removed from the blood. This leaves as the only options to treat life-threatening alcohol levels, supportive measures such as giving oxygen, intravenous fluids, breathing assistance, and treating any heart issues with drugs.

The principle behind this approach is simply to recruit the lungs to breathe out the alcohol. The harder the breathing, it was reasoned, the more alcohol is eliminated. The team found that hyperventilation eliminated the alcohol at least three times faster than through the liver alone. However, when hyperventilating – breathing deeper and more rapidly than normal – the body eliminates carbon dioxide from the blood along with the alcohol. The decrease of this gas in the blood is the cause of symptoms such as light-headedness, tingling or numbness on hands and feet, and fainting.

The researchers used a device that allows the patient to hyperventilate off the alcohol while returning precisely the amount of carbon dioxide to the body to keep it at normal levels in the blood – regardless of the extent of hyperventilation. This device is the size of a small briefcase and uses a valve system, some connecting tubes, a mask, and a small tank with compressed carbon dioxide. The study is the first scientific demonstration that the basic rate of alcohol elimination could be substantially increased by using hyperventilation. It is a proof of concept performed in the laboratory with volunteers. The authors recommend following up with further validation studies to understand how this technology could be applied in a clinical setting. It is best, however, to enjoy wine in moderation and prevent intoxication by avoiding excessive drinking.


Klostranec, J.M. et al, Accelerated ethanol elimination via the lungs. Scientific Reports, 2020; 10 (1).