Vaccine to Prevent Stress, a new take on "Old Friends"

Kristen Sparrow • July 17, 2019

This article discusses a new vaccine derived from a bacterium found in soil that might help calm the nervous system by providing a dosage of an “old friend” or a bacteria that we evolved with.  It does a nice job in explaining why stress can lead to inflammation and autoimmune conditions and vice versa.

These disorders of chronic inflammation are steadily increasing. This is troubling not only because they are a leading cause of death, but because, as in the case of Mrs. P, there’s an association between these disorders and mental health issues, which are also on the rise.
In the past two decades, scientists have begun to realize that the link isn’t merely a byproduct of living with a difficult disease. Researchers—like Bullmore, who wrote a book called The Inflamed Mind—have been uncovering a more meaningful and sinister connection between inflammation and mental health. Inflammation seems to directly cause mental health issues, while at the same time, stress and mental health issues themselves provoke inflammation—creating a dangerous feedback loop…
One reason runaway inflammation happens is that the immune system has lost its way. A surprising potential explanation for why this can happen is emerging: Our immune systems could be missing exposure to some crucial things that aid in its healthy development: bacteria and viruses, and parasitic worms—the very things it is designed to ward off. The loss of exposure to these microbial organisms due to our modern diets, medications, and lifestyles could be producing naive and untrained immune systems that have a tendency to go haywire.

We’ve discussed this on the blog in detail in the context of the hygiene hypothesis.  “Old Friends” refers to the fact that we, as humans, evolved with bacteria, parasites etc… and now that they are gone from our environments, our immune systems attack us in the form of allergies, autoimmune conditions and inflammation.  I’ve hypothesized that acupuncture may provide a focus for the immune system to activate against the needles and their small injury, instead of against itself.  This leads to less stress and less inflammation.  My most recent submission to Journal of Medical Acupuncture discusses this possibility. (Next blog post will be on that.)