Tensions are disrupting the fight against COVID-19 and the flu
More specifically, it has been shown that acute stress spurs neurons from the so-called hypothalamus of the ventricles to immediately trigger the large-scale migration of white blood cells (neutrophils). immune cells, or white blood cells) from the lymph nodes to the blood and bone marrow.
First, the researchers looked at groups of relaxed and stressed mouse models and analyzed their immune systems. Within minutes, the acutely stressed mice showed large changes in their immune systems when compared to the relaxed group of mice.
Specifically, stress causes a large migration of immune cells in the body from one location to another. The investigators wanted to explain this phenomenon.
Stress affects our immune system’s ability to fight infections
The researchers then went further to analyze how the mice in the comfort and stress models compared with the flu and COVID-19 infections.
They found that the mice in the comfort group performed better than the stressed group – they fought off infections better and cleared the virus more easily. The mice in the stress group were sicker, had less immunity, and had a higher rate of death from the virus.
The researchers also explored how other regions of the brain involved in motor function control different types of immune cells that travel from the bone marrow to the blood.
Less stress, more immunity
The impact of stress on white blood cells and how it can negatively impact the fight against viruses is important to understand more about the results and find ways to improve immunity. If white blood cells are constantly entering the bloodstream, this can also affect heart health.
This study is an important example of how the brain controls inflammation and its link to a reduced immune response during times of acute stress. This work could prompt doctors to take a closer look at patients’ mental states, including sleep patterns and stress levels.
In the future, we will need to better understand the long-term effects of stress. It is especially important to explore how we can build resilience to stress and whether resilience can reduce the negative effects of stress on our immune systems.