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Stress, cytokine patterns and susceptibility to disease.

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  • 1Pediatric Endocrinology Section, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Recent evidence indicates that glucocorticoids and catecholamines, the end-products of the stress system, and histamine, a product of activated mast cells, might selectively suppress cellular immunity, and favour humoral immune responses. This is mediated by a differential effect of stress hormones and histamine, on T helper 1 (Th1)/Th2 patterns and type 1/type 2-cytokine production. Thus, systemically, stress might induce a Th2 shift, while, locally, under certain conditions, it might induce pro-inflammatory activities through neural activation of the peripheral corticotropin-releasing factor-mast cell-histamine axis. Through the above mechanisms, stress may influence the onset and/or course of infectious, autoimmune/inflammatory, allergic and neoplastic diseases.

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