Objective: To investigate the effect of military stress on immune response and Helicobacter pylori stomach infections.
Methods: In this prospective, observational study, the Symptom Checklist-90 questionnaire was completed by military recruits before and following a 3-month basic training programme. H. pylori immunoglobulin (Ig)G levels, C(14)-urea breath-test values and levels of cortisol, catecholamine, and certain humoral and cellular immune responses were measured before and after the basic training.
Results: For 60 military recruits, somatization, depression and paranoid ideation scores were significantly increased after, compared with before, basic training. Post-training H. pylori IgG detection revealed three additional cases of H. pylori infection. Post-training C(14)-urea breath-test values were significantly higher compared with before training - thus suggesting higher levels of H. pylori colonization in the stomach. Post-training cortisol and catecholamine levels were increased, while serum IgG levels were decreased; complement component (C)3 and C4 levels remained unchanged. Post-training CD4(+) and CD8(+) T-cell percentages and the CD4(+)/CD8(+) ratio were significantly reduced compared with before training. Serum interleukin (IL)-2 levels were lower and IL-10 levels were higher following training and there was a significant decrease in the IL-2/IL-10 ratio.
Conclusion: Military stress may reduce humoral and cellular immune responses and may aggravate the severity of H. pylori infection.
Keywords: C14-urea breath test; Helicobacter pylori; Military stress; immune response; stomach infections.
© The Author(s) 2016.