The effect of stress on microbial growth

Anim Health Res Rev. 2014 Dec;15(2):172-4. doi: 10.1017/S146625231400019X. Epub 2014 Oct 31.


The neurophysiological response of an animal to stress involves the production of a number of stress-related neurochemicals including the catecholamines norepinephrine and epinephrine. It is generally believed that such neurochemicals belong exclusively to the animal kingdom and that any role such neurochemicals play in the infective process is largely confined to host physiology and immunology-related parameters. This, however, is wholly incorrect as many of the bacterial species that are known to cause infections possess the capacity to not only recognize neuroendocrine hormones produced by the host in response to stress, but also synthesize the very same neurochemicals. Given this, infectious microorganisms are capable of directly responding to the neurochemical outflow resulting from a stress event and initiating pathogenic processes. Although the neuroendocrine environment of the lung following a stress event is not fully understood, it most likely possesses abundant levels of stress-related neurochemicals due to its rich blood supply and rich noradrenergic tissue innervation. The ability of microorganisms to recognize and produce neurochemicals that can influence the host, known as microbial endocrinology, provides for a mechanistic basis with which to examine the ability of stress to influence health and susceptibility to disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catecholamines / immunology
  • Catecholamines / physiology*
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / immunology
  • Cattle Diseases / microbiology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology*
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / innervation
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Microbiota / physiology
  • Stress, Physiological / immunology
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*


  • Catecholamines