Enhanced cellular immune response in women with PTSD related to childhood abuse

Am J Psychiatry. 2003 Sep;160(9):1705-7. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.160.9.1705.


Objective: Disturbed regulation of both the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenomedullary system in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suggests that immune function, which is modulated by these systems, also may be dysregulated in individuals with PTSD.

Method: Delayed-type hypersensitivity skin test responses were measured in 16 women with PTSD due to childhood sexual or physical abuse and 15 women who did not have a history of abuse, other trauma, or psychiatric disorders. HPA axis activity was assessed by examination of circadian salivary cortisol levels and a single time point measurement of plasma cortisol.

Results: Delayed-type hypersensitivity was enhanced in women with PTSD. Cortisol measures did not differ between PTSD and healthy comparison subjects.

Conclusions: These results suggest that cell-mediated inflammatory reactions are greater in individuals with PTSD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hypersensitivity, Delayed / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity, Delayed / immunology*
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Skin Tests
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / immunology*


  • Hydrocortisone