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APA: Chronic Stress May Worsen Multiple Sclerosis

Animal study links interleukin-6 to increased risk of infections and severe MS symptoms

FRIDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic stress releases cytokines that may exacerbate central nervous system infections and neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, according to animal research presented this week at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, Calif.

Mary W. Meagher, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University in College Station, and colleagues subjected mice to social stress and Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus infection, which causes demyelination similar to human multiple sclerosis.

The researchers found that the stressed mice had higher levels of interleukin-6, which was associated with increased severity of the infection and subsequent multiple sclerosis-like symptoms. They also found that the administration of an interleukin-6 neutralizing antibody during social stress helped weaken the infection and reduce symptoms such as motor impairment, inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, and the viral level in the central nervous system.

"This paper provides evidence that blocking the stress-induced increases in cytokine activity during the stress exposure period can prevent the adverse effects of social stress," the authors write. "This suggests that interventions designed to prevent or reverse the stress-induced increases in cytokine activity may be able to prevent or reverse some of the negative health effects of social conflict in humans."

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