Doctors working to develop stress vaccine

Published: Nov. 19, 2019 at 5:36 PM EST
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Seventy-eight percent of Americans say they feel stressed out at work, and when you're stressed, your heart rate increases and your blood pressure rises.

But now, the solution may be a stress vaccine.

Police officers, airline pilots, firefighters and the military: These are the four most stressed-out workers. There are pills to treat symptoms and therapy to talk through it.

Psychologist Lisa Brenner and neuroendocrinologist Christopher Lowry are targeting stress before it starts.

Lowry's team at the University of Colorado - Boulder hasn't discovered something new, but rather something old and abundant that could take away stress.

The bacteria found in dirt contain fatty acids that bind with receptors inside immune cells and lock out chemicals that cause inflammation. It's a vicious cycle where inflammation triggers stress, and the stress then triggers more inflammation. It's based on the idea that as more and more people move away from farms, away from agriculture and getting their hands dirty, they're moving away from things that build their immunity.

In mice, this "stress vaccine" prevented a PTSD-like syndrome in the short term and diminished stress reactions later on.

"This suggested that if you can immunize and prevent inappropriate inflammation, then you can prevent a lot of negative outcomes of future stressors," Lowry explains.

That means a vaccine, a pill, or a nasal spray could actually stop stress, and everything that comes with it, before you feel stressed out.

The vaccine could also possibly help prevent other inflammatory diseases triggered by stress such as IBD.

The professor says it could take up to ten years to get the stress vaccine to market, but simple exposure to any soil may have dramatic health benefits.

Studies show people who grow up on farms or in the country feel less stress, experience less depression and are less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma.




REPORT: MB #4654

BACKGROUND: According to CBS News, the top ten most stressful jobs, in order, are: enlisted military personnel of three or four years, firefighters, airline pilots, police officers, broadcasters,

event coordinators, news reporters, public relations executives, senior corporate executives, and taxi drivers. This outcome was determined by evaluating eleven stress factors including travel required, industry growth potential and hazardous conditions. The top three least stressful jobs are listed as a diagnostic medical sonographer, a compliance officer, and a hair stylist. (Source:

SYMPTOMS: Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune. Because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions. Emotional symptoms may include agitation, low self-esteem, and depression. Physical symptoms may include headaches, loss of sexual desire, grinding teeth and low energy. And some cognitive symptoms might include disorganization, racing thoughts and constant worrying. (Source:

NEW RESEARCH: Christopher Lowry, a Neuroendocrinologist at CU Boulder talks about the origin of the idea for stress immunization. "We're working with a strain of soil-derived bacteria that was isolated in the early 1970s by John Stanford and his colleagues. He was an immunologist at UCL in London. They realized that vaccination programs against leprosy varied dramatically in their success based on geography. So there were some geographical areas where these vaccines worked really well. They went to one of those areas around Lake Kyogle, Uganda, anticipating that there might be some environmental factor that could explain why these vaccines were so successful there. And they discovered this strain of bacterium called mica bacterium vacy. And subsequently they learned that injections of this bacteria can modulate our immune system in a way that prevents inappropriate inflammation, in addition to its apparent effect acting as an adjuvant to boost the efficacy of the vaccines that were being used."

(Source: Christopher Lowry)

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