Monday, April 2, 2007

Bacteria in dirt might boost mood and immune system

Dirt exposure 'boosts happiness' BBC News 4/1/07 "Exposure to dirt may be a way to lift mood as well as boost the immune system...Lung cancer patients treated with "friendly" bacteria normally found in the soil have anecdotally reported improvements in their quality of life. Mice exposed to the same bacteria made more of the brain's "happy" chemical serotonin, the Bristol University authors told the journal Neuroscience...more work is now needed to determine if the bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae has antidepressant properties through activation of serotonin neurons...Lead researcher Dr Chris Lowry said: "These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health...The work could also help experts' understanding of why an imbalance in the immune system leaves some individuals vulnerable to mood disorders like depression...Canadian researchers have also been exploring the links between serotonin, mood and immunity...A team at Georgetown University Medical Center recently discovered serotonin is passed between key cells in the immune system, and that the chemical can activate an immune response...This suggests that serotonin may restore a healthy immune function in people who are depressed and prone to infections. On the flip side, it is also possible that serotonin, and serotonin-boosting antidepressants, end up bolstering immunity to the point that they trigger autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself. Gerard Ahern, lead researcher on the study, explained: "At this point we just don't know how these drugs might affect immunity, so we really need to clarify the normal role of serotonin in immune cell functioning.""

There's been plenty of anecdotal evidence that the immune system can play a key role in mood and depression but I hadn't realized that serotonin is apparently so crucial to the immune system. Very interesting research all. So do you think this story will boost gardening? Hey if it boosts mood you might even find popular competitive gardening shows on FOX. That'll be the day.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is also possible that the injection caused a boost in immune system activity, and this in turn, boosted the fighting of an existing virus in the brain, such as Epstein-Barr, this virus being the actual cause of depression. The chronic-viral-infection-in-the-brain theory of depression is highly plausible. Many persistent viruses have beeen implicated.