The impacts of psychological stress on virus-associated immune responses: unignorable challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic immunity

The pandemic outbreak of the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19) has become a major threat to our physical health. Simultaneously, the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the resulting countermeasures (particularly lockdowns) are negatively affecting our mental well-being, due to disease progression-induced fear and fatigue, social distancing and isolation, family conflicts during quarantine, supply shortages, unemployment, and mounting financial burdens. Accumulating evidence suggests that stress is associated with an increased susceptibility to, and severity of, viral infection, which can be at least partially explained by systemic changes in anti-viral innate and adaptive immunity, as well as dysregulated inflammatory and autoimmune responses. Furthermore, pandemic-related psychological stress may influence the efficacy of viral vaccines. Thus, deciphering the underlying molecular links between psychological stress and viral infection-associated immune-inflammatory alternations will provide novel insights into the development of optimal therapeutic interventions and prophylactic vaccines.

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