Send to

Choose Destination
Malar J. 2008 Oct 14;7:208. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-7-208.

Sickness behaviour pushed too far--the basis of the syndrome seen in severe protozoal, bacterial and viral diseases and post-trauma.

Author information

School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.


Certain distinctive components of the severe systemic inflammatory syndrome are now well-recognized to be common to malaria, sepsis, viral infections, and post-trauma illness. While their connection with cytokines has been appreciated for some time, the constellation of changes that comprise the syndrome has simply been accepted as an empirical observation, with no theory to explain why they should coexist. New data on the effects of the main pro-inflammatory cytokines on the genetic control of sickness behaviour can be extended to provide a rationale for why this syndrome contains many of its accustomed components, such as reversible encephalopathy, gene silencing, dyserythropoiesis, seizures, coagulopathy, hypoalbuminaemia and hypertriglyceridaemia. It is thus proposed that the pattern of pathology that comprises much of the systemic inflammatory syndrome occurs when one of the usually advantageous roles of pro-inflammatory cytokines--generating sickness behaviour by moderately repressing genes (Dbp, Tef, Hlf, Per1, Per2 and Per3, and the nuclear receptor Rev-erbalpha) that control circadian rhythm--becomes excessive. Although reversible encephalopathy and gene silencing are severe events with potentially fatal consequences, they can be viewed as having survival advantages through lowering energy demand. In contrast, dyserythropoiesis, seizures, coagulopathy, hypoalbuminaemia and hypertriglyceridaemia may best be viewed as unfortunate consequences of extreme repression of these same genetic controls when the pro-inflammatory cytokines that cause sickness behaviour are produced excessively. As well as casting a new light on the previously unrationalized coexistence of these aspects of systemic inflammatory diseases, this concept is consistent with the case for a primary role for inflammatory cytokines in their pathogenesis across this range of diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center