Chronic Stress and its Effect on the Immune System


All day, every day, the human immune system encounters pathogenic microbes or toxins that aim to make the host sick. The mammalian immune system is a complex organization, rather than a singular form, of many tissues, organs, and defense cells that work together to activate the immune responses to defend the body from foreign microbes and toxins that pass the body’s physical and chemical barriers. The immune system’s first response to bacteria, viruses, and toxins is known as the innate or nonspecific immune response. The second immune response is known as the adaptive (specific) immune response. The adaptive response comes when a pathogen is too strong for the innate response to contain and destroy. Stress increases the amount of cortisol produced, which in turn decreases the lymphocytes. Researchers have found that cortisol in short, small amounts can limit inflammation and boost immunity, but with chronic stress the body becomes accustomed to the cortisol and susceptible to inflammation

Keywords: innate immune response, adaptive immune response, pathogen, antibody, antigen, stress

Year Manuscript Completed

Fall 2020

Senior Project Advisor

Douglas Scott

Degree Awarded

Bachelor of Integrated Studies Degree

Field of Study

Natural Sciences

Document Type

Thesis - Murray State Access only

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