Stress affects the balance of bacteria in the gut and immune response

Mar 21, 2011

Stress can change the balance of bacteria that naturally live in the gut, according to research published this month in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

"These bacteria affect immune function, and may help explain why stress dysregulates the immune response," said lead researcher Michael Bailey.

Exposure to stress led to changes in composition, diversity and number of gut microorganisms, according to scientists from The Ohio State University. The in the intestine became less diverse, and had greater numbers of potentially , such as Clostridium.

"These changes can have profound implications for physiological function", explained Dr Bailey. "When we reduced the number of bacteria in the intestines using antibiotics, we found that some of the effects of stress on the immune system were prevented", he added. "This suggests that not only does stress change the bacteria levels in the gut, but that these alterations can, in turn, impact our immunity."

"This is the first evidence that the gut microorganisms may play a role in innate immunological stress responses," said Monika Fleshner, Professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "The study reveals the dynamic interactions between multiple physiological systems including the intestinal and the immune system."

Because have been linked to diseases like , and even to asthma, a future goal of the study is to determine whether alterations of gut bacteria is the reason why these diseases tend to be worse during periods of pressure.

Explore further: Scientists identify critical new protein complex involved in learning and memory

More information: Article: "Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: Implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation" by Michael T. Bailey, Scot E. Dowd, Jeffrey D. Galley, Amy R. Hufnagle, Rebecca G. Allen and Mark Lytee;
Commentary: "The gut microbiota: A new player in the innate immune stress response?" by Monika Fleshner.
The article appears in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Volume 25, Number 3 (March 2011)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Resistant gut bacteria will not go away by themselves

Jun 19, 2007

E. coli bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics will probably still be around even if we stop using antibiotics, as these strains have the same good chance as other bacteria of continuing to colonise the gut, ...

Bugs in the gut trigger production of important immune cells

Oct 15, 2008

A new study reveals that specific types of bacteria in the intestine trigger the generation of pro-inflammatory immune cells, a finding that could eventually lead to novel treatments for inflammatory bowel disease and other ...

Cancer-causing gut bacteria exposed

Sep 22, 2008

Normal gut bacteria are thought to be involved in colon cancer but the exact mechanisms have remained unknown. Now, scientists from the USA have discovered that a molecule produced by a common gut bacterium activates signalling ...

Overweight? Get someone else's gut bacteria

Mar 18, 2011

People who are overweight may have different gut bacteria from those in their slender fellow human beings. This is the contention of Willem de Vos, professor of Microbiology at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, in his ...

Recommended for you

How the body fights against viruses

18 hours ago

Scientists of the Max F. Perutz Laboratories of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna, together with colleagues of the ETH Zurich, have now shown how double stranded RNA, such as viral ...

Fast way to measure DNA repair

Apr 22, 2014

Our DNA is under constant attack from many sources, including environmental pollutants, ultraviolet light, and radiation. Fortunately, cells have several major DNA repair systems that can fix this damage, ...

Protein expression gets the heart pumping

Apr 22, 2014

Most people think the development of the heart only happens in the womb, however the days and weeks following birth are full of cellular changes that play a role in the structure and function of the heart. ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Computer screening could help patients and healthcare

A trial of a new patient care model, which uses over-the-phone consultations and computers to help better understand the needs of the patient, has begun this week, led by researchers at the University of Adelaide.

In the 'slime jungle' height matters

(Phys.org) —In communities of microbes, akin to 'slime jungles', cells evolve not just to grow faster than their rivals but also to push themselves to the surface of colonies where they gain the best access ...

Robot scouts rooms people can't enter

(Phys.org) —Firefighters, police officers and military personnel are often required to enter rooms with little information about what dangers might lie behind the door. A group of engineering students at ...

New alfalfa variety resists ravenous local pest

(Phys.org) —Cornell plant breeders have released a new alfalfa variety with some resistance against the alfalfa snout beetle, which has ravaged alfalfa fields in nine northern New York counties and across ...