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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999 Jun 22;876:413-8.

Stress and immune dysfunction in Gulf War veterans.

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Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Birmingham, Alabama 35233, USA.


The role of stress and immunological abnormalities, as well as the neuroendocrine regulation of these two variables, in illnesses in Gulf War veterans (GWVs) is unknown. Many GWV patients complain of skin and joint problems, that is, disorders that may have a common immunological basis. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder associated with chronic stress, is diagnosed in approximately 10% of the Alabama GWVs. Chronic stress can lead to a reduced capacity to resist disease. Recent work suggests that a dysregulated balance of cytokines produced by T helper cells of the immune system can play a significant role in stress-related illnesses. Indeed, a balanced immune response (cell-mediated and humoral immunity) is an important defense mechanism, and cytokines can regulate this balance. It is therefore plausible that stress-induced changes in hormones (such as cortisol and catecholamines) and cytokines, both of which have been implicated in altering levels of cellular or humoral immunity, may play a role in GWV illnesses.

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