In those who chronically drink large amounts of alcohol there is an increase in transferrin that lacks attached carbohydrate moieties (sialic acid, galactose, mannose, etc.). This is referred to as carbohydrate deficient transferrin.


NOTE: Another "transferrin index" is calculated from serum iron and transferrin levels (see above, under Iron).



(1) isoelectric focusing followed by immunofixation

(2) microanion-exchange chromatography coupled with RIA

(3) isoelectric focusing followed by Western blotting


transferrin index =

= (pI 5.7 fraction on isoelectric focusing) / (pI 5.4 fraction)




transferrin index =

= (serum carbohydrate deficient transferrin) / (total transferrin)



• Active alcoholics have 5-10% of serum transferrin as carbohydrate deficient transferrin.

• Serum carbohydrate deficient transferrin may be elevated in patients drinking more than 50-80 grams of alcohol per day for at least 1 week.

• During abstinence the values decrease to normal slowly with a half-life of about 15-17 days.



• Not all active drinkers have elevations in carbohydrate deficient transferrin.

• Not all active drinkers have elevation in the transferrin index.

• Although usually not affected by liver disease, more experience is needed to determine possible impact of different hepatic conditions on serum levels.


To read more or access our algorithms and calculators, please log in or register.