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Rasmussen AF Jr, Marsh JT, Brill NQ. Increased susceptibility to herpes simplex in mice subjected to avoidance-learning stress or restraint. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1957;96:183-189

Aaron Frederick Rasmussen Jr. (1915-1984) was an American microbiologist and immunologist, a physician. He graduated in 1940 with an M.S., in 1941 with a Ph.D. and in 1944 with an M.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. At the University of California’s (UCLA) School of Medicine (now named the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA), he was appointed in 1952 a full professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases (which became the Department of Microbiology and Immunology).

Together with Dr. Norman Brill, Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA, and Dr. James Marsh, an experimental psychologist, he used the Miller shuttle box to study avoidance learning. The box had two chambers, one with a grid on the floor to apply electrical footshocks and one without grid and footshocks. Through a barrier, the animal can easily shuttle from one chamber to the other. Mice soon learned to avoid the electric shock and were, thus, exposed primarily to the stress of anticipation of pain and fear (1). In 1970, Rasmussen wrote (1):

“The readily observable bodily changes induced by repeated applications of the avoidance learning situation were hypertrophy of the adrenals, ’leukopenia, primarily due to reduction in lymphocytes,’ hypotrophy of the spleen, hypotrophy of the thymus, persistent pseudo estrous without ovulation in female, and suppression of granuloma formation. The responses to experimental infections in mice exposed repeatedly to this stressful situation were an increased susceptibility to herpes simplex (2), poliomyelitis (3), Coxsackie B (4), and polyoma virus infections (unpublished).”

This increased susceptibility to viruses was not always observed such as with influenza, respiratory viruses or Rauscher leukemia virus (1). The figure shows the percentage of dead animals after herpes simplex virus infection with or without additional avoidance learning stress (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Influence of avoidance learning stress on death by herpes simplex virus infection in mice.

Fig 1. Influence of avoidance learning stress on death by herpes simplex virus infection in mice.

The figure was created by the blogger and is based on tabular data published in Rasmussen AF Jr et al. (1957).

Today, we well know that stress can have a strong influence on infection. This can have unfavorable but sometimes also favorable effects depending on the type of infection and the investigated species (2 vs. 5).

The journal Neuroimmunomodulation published several papers on psychological stress and infection (6-11).

References

  1. Rasmussen AF Jr. Emotions and immunity. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1969;164:458-462
  2. Rasmussen AF Jr, Marsh JT, Brill NQ. Increased susceptibility to herpes simplex in mice subjected to avoidance-learning stress or restraint. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1957;96:183-189
  3. Johnsson T, Rasmussen AF Jr. Emotional stress and susceptibility to poliomyelitis virus infection in mice. Arch Gesamte Virusforsch. 1965;17:392-397
  4. Johnsson T, Lavender JF, Hultin E, Rasmussen AF Jr. The influence of avoidance-learning stress on resistance to coxsackie B virus in mice. J Immunol. 1963;91:569-575
  5. Marsh JT, Lavender JF, Chang SS, Rasmussen AF. Poliomyelitis in monkeys: decreased susceptibility after avoidance stress. Science. 1963;140(3574):1414-1415
  6. Deak T, Nguyen KT, Fleshner M, Watkins LR, Maier SF. Acute stress may facilitate recovery from a subcutaneous bacterial challenge. Neuroimmunomodulation. 1999;6:344-354
  7. Stowe RP, Pierson DL, Feeback DL, Barrett AD. Stress-induced reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus in astronauts. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2000;8:51-58
  8. Rodriguez-Galán MC, Correa SG, Cejas H, Sotomayor CE. Impaired activity of phagocytic cells in Candida albicans infection after exposure to chronic varied stress. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2001;9:193-202
  9. Gomez-Merino D, Drogou C, Chennaoui M, Tiollier E, Mathieu J, Guezennec CY. Effects of combined stress during intense training on cellular immunity, hormones and respiratory infections. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2005;12:164-172
  10. Welsh CJ, Steelman AJ, Mi W, Young CR, Dean DD, Storts R, Welsh TH Jr, Meagher MW. Effects of stress on the immune response to Theiler’s virus-implications for virus-induced autoimmunity. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2010;17:169-172
  11. Brook MJ, Christian LM, Hade EM, Ruffin MT. The Effect of Perceived Stress on Epstein-Barr Virus Antibody Titers in Appalachian Ohio Women. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2017;24:67-73

A Wikipedia site reports on the life of Aaron Frederick Rasmussen Jr.

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