Despite inherent difficulties in defining and measuring stress, a scientific framework has been provided in recent years for understanding how disruptive life experiences might be translated into altered susceptibility to infectious diseases. Studies of the effects of stress on pathogenesis of infectious disease are highly relevant to assessment of the biological importance of the immune impairments that have been associated with stress. With a few notable exceptions, investigations of viral infections in humans and in animal models support the hypothesis that stress promotes the pathogenesis of such infections. Similar conclusions can be drawn from studies of bacterial infections in humans and animals and from a small number of studies of parasitic infections in rodent models. While many of these studies have substantial limitations, the data nonetheless suggest that stress is a potential cofactor in the pathogenesis of infectious disease. Given recent unprecedented advances in the neurosciences, in immunology, and in the field of microbial pathogenesis, the relationship between stress and infection should be a fruitful topic for interdisciplinary research.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Received 18 May 1990; revised 10 September 1990. Grant support: U.S. Public Health Service grants DA-04196, DA-04381, and 271-89-8155. Reprints and correspondence: Dr. Phillip K. Peterson, Department of Medicine, Hennepin County Medical Center, 701 Park Avenue,Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415.