Brain, behavior, and immunity

Neonatal experience interacts with adult social stress to alter acute and chronic Theiler's virus infection.

PMID 24632225


Previous research has shown that neonatal handling has prolonged protective effects associated with stress resilience and aging, yet little is known about its effect on stress-induced modulation of infectious disease. We have previously demonstrated that social disruption stress exacerbates the acute and chronic phases of the disease when applied prior to Theiler's virus infection (PRE-SDR) whereas it attenuates disease severity when applied concurrently with infection (CON-SDR). Here, we asked whether neonatal handling would protect adult mice from the detrimental effects of PRE-SDR and attenuate the protective effects of CON-SDR on Theiler's virus infection. As expected, handling alone decreased IL-6 and corticosterone levels, protected the non-stressed adult mice from motor impairment throughout infection and reduced antibodies to myelin components (PLP, MBP) during the autoimmune phase of disease. In contrast, neonatal handling X PRE/CON-SDR elevated IL-6 and reduced corticosterone as well as increased motor impairment during the acute phase of the infection. Neonatal handling X PRE/CON-SDR continued to exacerbate motor impairment during the chronic phase, whereas only neonatal handling X PRE-SDR increased in antibodies to PLP, MOG, MBP and TMEV. Together, these results imply that while handling reduced the severity of later Theiler's virus infection in non-stressed mice, brief handling may not be protective when paired with later social stress.