Neonatal experience interacts with adult social stress to alter acute and chronic Theiler’s virus infection Academic Article uri icon


  • Previous research has shown that neonatal handling has prolonged protective effects associated with stress resilience and aging, yet little is known about its effect on stress-induced modulation of infectious disease. We have previously demonstrated that social disruption stress exacerbates the acute and chronic phases of the disease when applied prior to Theiler's virus infection (PRE-SDR) whereas it attenuates disease severity when applied concurrently with infection (CON-SDR). Here, we asked whether neonatal handling would protect adult mice from the detrimental effects of PRE-SDR and attenuate the protective effects of CON-SDR on Theiler's virus infection. As expected, handling alone decreased IL-6 and corticosterone levels, protected the non-stressed adult mice from motor impairment throughout infection and reduced antibodies to myelin components (PLP, MBP) during the autoimmune phase of disease. In contrast, neonatal handling X PRE/CON-SDR elevated IL-6 and reduced corticosterone as well as increased motor impairment during the acute phase of the infection. Neonatal handling X PRE/CON-SDR continued to exacerbate motor impairment during the chronic phase, whereas only neonatal handling X PRE-SDR increased in antibodies to PLP, MOG, MBP and TMEV. Together, these results imply that while handling reduced the severity of later Theiler's virus infection in non-stressed mice, brief handling may not be protective when paired with later social stress.

author list (cited authors)

  • Johnson, R. R., Bouchard, S. M., Prentice, T. W., Bridegam, P., Rassu, F., Young, C. R., ... Meagher, M. W.

citation count

  • 5

publication date

  • March 2014