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Journal: Brain, behavior, and immunity


Recent insights into the role of the human microbiota in cognitive and affective functioning have led to the hypothesis that probiotic supplementation may act as an adjuvant strategy to ameliorate or prevent depression.

Concepts: Psychology, Gut flora, Randomized controlled trial, Escherichia coli, Pharmaceutical industry, Probiotic, Seasonal affective disorder, Emotion


Infection-triggered perturbation of the immune system could induce psychopathology, and psychiatric sequelae were observed after previous coronavirus outbreaks. The spreading of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could be associated with psychiatric implications. We investigated the psychopathological impact of COVID-19 in survivors, also considering the effect of clinical and inflammatory predictors. We screened for psychiatric symptoms 402 adults surviving COVID-19 (265male,meanage58), at one month follow-up after hospital treatment. A clinical interview and a battery of self-report questionnaires were used to investigate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, insomnia, and obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptomatology. We collected sociodemographic information, clinical data, baseline inflammatory markers and follow-up oxygen saturation levels. A significant proportion of patients self-rated in the psychopathological range: 28% for PTSD, 31% for depression, 42% for anxiety, 20% for OC symptoms, and 40% for insomnia. Overall, 56% scored in the pathological range in at least one clinical dimension. Despite significantly lower levels of baseline inflammatory markers, females suffered more for both anxiety and depression. Patients with a positive previous psychiatric diagnosis showed increased scores on most psychopathological measures, with similar baseline inflammation. Baseline systemic immune-inflammation index (SII), which reflects the immune response and systemic inflammation based on peripheral lymphocyte, neutrophil and platelet counts, positively associated with scores of depression and anxiety at follow-up. PTSD, major depression, and anxiety, are all high-burden non-communicable conditions associated with years of life lived with disability. Considering the alarming impact of COVID-19 infection on mental health, the current insights on inflammation in psychiatry, and the present obervation of worse inflammation leading to worse depression, we recommend to assess psychopathology of COVID-19 survivors and to deepen research on inflammatory biomarkers, in order to diagnose and treat emergent psychiatric conditions.


Viral infections have detrimental impacts on neurological functions, and even to cause severe neurological damage. Very recently, coronaviruses (CoV), especially severe acute respiratory syndrome CoV 2 (SARS-CoV-2), exhibit neurotropic properties and may also cause neurological diseases. It is reported that CoV can be found in the brain or cerebrospinal fluid. The pathobiology of these neuroinvasive viruses is still incompletely known, and it is therefore important to explore the impact of CoV infections on the nervous system. Here, we review the research into neurological complications in CoV infections and the possible mechanisms of damage to the nervous system.


COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to significantly affect the mental health of healthcare workers (HCWs), who stand in the frontline of this crisis. It is, therefore, an immediate priority to monitor rates of mood, sleep and other mental health issues in order to understand mediating factors and inform tailored interventions. The aim of this review is to synthesize and analyze existing evidence on the prevalence of depression, anxiety and insomnia among HCWs during the Covid-19 outbreak.


Common infectious pathogens have been associated with psychiatric disorders, self-violence and risk-taking behavior.


We conducted the first large-scale general population study on lifestyle risk factors (smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, and excessive alcohol intake) for COVID-19 using prospective cohort data with national registry linkage to hospitalisation. Participants were 387,109 men and women (56.4 ±8.8 yr; 55.1% women) residing in England from UK Biobank study. Physical activity, smoking, and alcohol intake, were assessed by questionnaire at baseline (2006-2010). Body mass index, from measured height and weight, was used as an indicator of overall obesity. Outcome was cases of COVID-19 serious enough to warrant a hospital admission from 16-March-2020 to 26-April-2020. There were 760 COVID-19 cases. After adjustment for age, sex and mutually for each lifestyle factor, physical inactivity (Relative risk, 1.32, 95% confidence interval, 1.10, 1.58), smoking (1.42;1.12, 1.79) and obesity (2.05 ;1.68, 2.49) but not heavy alcohol consumption (1.12; 0.93, 1.35) were all related to COVID-19. We also found a dose-dependent increase in risk of COVID-19 with less favourable lifestyle scores, such that participants in the most adverse category had 4-fold higher risk (4.41; 2.52 -7.71) compared to people with the most optimal lifestyle. C-reactive protein levels were associated with elevated risk of COVID-19 in a dose-dependent manner, and partly (10 - 16%) explained associations between adverse lifestyle and COVID-19. Based on UK risk factor prevalence estimates, unhealthy behaviours in combination accounted for up to 51% of the population attributable fraction of severe COVID-19. Our findings suggest that an unhealthy lifestyle synonymous with an elevated risk of non-communicable disease is also a risk factor for COVID-19 hospital admission, which might be partly explained by low grade inflammation. Adopting simple lifestyle changes could lower the risk of severe infection.


Fibromyalgia (FM) is a poorly understood chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties. While mounting evidence suggests a role for neuroinflammation, no study has directly provided evidence of brain glial activation in FM. In this study, we conducted a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) study using [11C]PBR28, which binds to the translocator protein (TSPO), a protein upregulated in activated microglia and astrocytes. To enhance statistical power and generalizability, we combined datasets collected independently at two separate institutions (Massachusetts General Hospital [MGH] and Karolinska Institutet [KI]). In an attempt to disentangle the contributions of different glial cell types to FM, a smaller sample was scanned at KI with [11C]-L-deprenyl-D2 PET, thought to primarily reflect astrocytic (but not microglial) signal. Thirty-one FM patients and 27 healthy controls (HC) were examined using [11C]PBR28 PET. 11 FM patients and 11 HC were scanned using [11C]-L-deprenyl-D2 PET. Standardized uptake values normalized by occipital cortex signal (SUVR) and distribution volume (VT) were computed from the [11C]PBR28 data. [11C]-L-deprenyl-D2 was quantified using λk3. PET imaging metrics were compared across groups, and when differing across groups, against clinical variables. Compared to HC, FM patients demonstrated widespread cortical elevations, and no decreases, in [11C]PBR28 VT and SUVR, most pronounced in the medial and lateral walls of the frontal and parietal lobes. No regions showed significant group differences in [11C]-L-deprenyl-D2 signal, including those demonstrating elevated [11C]PBR28 signal in patients (p's≥0.53, uncorrected). The elevations in [11C]PBR28 VT and SUVR were correlated both spatially (i.e., were observed in overlapping regions) and, in several areas, also in terms of magnitude. In exploratory, uncorrected analyses, higher subjective ratings of fatigue in FM patients were associated with higher [11C]PBR28 SUVR in the anterior and posterior middle cingulate cortices (p’s<0.03). SUVR was not significantly associated with any other clinical variable. Our work provides the first in vivo evidence supporting a role for glial activation in FM pathophysiology. Given that the elevations in [11C]PBR28 signal were not also accompanied by increased [11C]-L-deprenyl-D2 signal, our data suggests that microglia, but not astrocytes, may be driving the TSPO elevation in these regions. Although [11C]-L-deprenyl-D2 signal was not found to be increased in FM patients, larger studies are needed to further assess the role of possible astrocytic contributions in FM. Overall, our data support glial modulation as a potential therapeutic strategy for FM.


Influenza vaccination is estimated to only be effective in 17-53% of older adults. Multiple patient behaviors and psychological factors have been shown to act as ‘immune modulators’ sufficient to influence vaccination outcomes. However, the relative importance of such factors is unknown as they have typically been examined in isolation. The objective of the present study was to explore the effects of multiple behavioral (physical activity, nutrition, sleep) and psychological influences (stress, positive mood, negative mood) on the effectiveness of the immune response to influenza vaccination in the elderly. A prospective, diary-based longitudinal observational cohort study was conducted. One hundred and thirty-eight community-dwelling older adults (65-85 years) who received the 2014/15 influenza vaccination completed repeated psycho-behavioral measures over the two weeks prior, and four weeks following influenza vaccination. IgG responses to vaccination were measured via antigen microarray and seroprotection via hemagglutination inhibition assays at 4 and 16 weeks post-vaccination. High pre-vaccination seroprotection levels were observed for H3N2 and B viral strains. Positive mood on the day of vaccination was a significant predictor of H1N1 seroprotection at 16 weeks post-vaccination and IgG responses to vaccination at 4 and 16 weeks post-vaccination, controlling for age and gender. Positive mood across the 6-week observation period was also significantly associated with post-vaccination H1N1 seroprotection and IgG responses to vaccination at 16 weeks post-vaccination, but in regression models the proportion of variance explained was lower than for positive mood on the day of vaccination alone. No other factors were found to significantly predict antibody responses to vaccination. Greater positive mood in older adults, particularly on the day of vaccination, is associated with enhanced responses to vaccination.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Cohort study, Vaccine, Vaccination, Immunology, Influenza, Influenza vaccine


The coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic is a significant psychological stressor in addition to its tremendous impact on every facet of individuals' lives and organizations in virtually all social and economic sectors worldwide. Fear of illness and uncertainty about the future precipitate anxiety- and stress-related disorders, and several groups have rightfully called for the creation and dissemination of robust mental health screening and treatment programs for the general public and front-line healthcare workers. However, in addition to pandemic-associated psychological distress, the direct effects of the virus itself (several acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus; SARS-CoV-2), and the subsequent host immunologic response, on the human central nervous system (CNS) and related outcomes are unknown. We discuss currently available evidence of COVID-19 related neuropsychiatric sequelae while drawing parallels to past viral pandemic-related outcomes. Past pandemics have demonstrated that diverse types of neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as encephalopathy, mood changes, psychosis, neuromuscular dysfunction, or demyelinating processes, may accompany acute viral infection, or may follow infection by weeks, months, or longer in recovered patients. The potential mechanisms are also discussed, including viral and immunological underpinnings. Therefore, prospective neuropsychiatric monitoring of individuals exposed to SARS-CoV-2 at various points in the life course, as well as their neuroimmune status, are needed to fully understand the long-term impact of COVID-19, and to establish a framework for integrating psychoneuroimmunology into epidemiologic studies of pandemics.


Experiencing childhood adversity has been associated with significant changes in inflammation, cell-mediated immunocompetence, and cortisol secretion. Relatively few studies have examined, longitudinally, alterations to inflammatory processes during adolescence, especially outside Western contexts; none have evaluated biomarker trajectories for at-risk youth in response to a structured behavioral intervention. We conducted a randomized controlled trial evaluating the efficacy of a humanitarian intervention targeting stress-alleviation, with 12-18 year-old Syrian refugees (n = 446) and Jordanian non-refugees (n = 371) living side-by-side in war-affected communities in Jordan. We measured C-reactive protein (CRP), Epstein-Barr virus antibodies (EBV), and hair cortisol concentration (HCC) at three timepoints (pre/post intervention and 11 month follow-up), and assessed three main outcomes (psychosocial stress, mental health, and cognitive function). Using growth mixture models, regressions, and growth curve models, we identified three distinct trajectories for CRP, two for EBV, and three for HCC, and examined their associations with age, gender, BMI, poverty, and trauma. We found associations with BMI for CRP, refugee status for EBV, and BMI and gender with HCC trajectory. In terms of health outcomes, we found associations between rising CRP levels and perceived stress (B=-2.92, p=.007), and between HCC hypersecretion and insecurity (B=7.21, p=.017). In terms of responses to the intervention, we observed no differential impacts by CRP or EBV trajectories, unlike HCC. These results suggest that commonly-assayed biomarkers do not associate with health outcomes and respond to targeted interventions in straightforward ways. Our study is the first to examine multiple biomarker trajectories in war-affected adolescents, in order to better evaluate the extent, timing, and malleability of the biological signatures of poverty, conflict, and forced displacement.