Guerrero-Martin, S. M., Rubin, L. H., McGee, K. M. et al. 2021. Psychosocial stress alters the immune response and results in higher viral load during acute simian immunodeficiency virus infection in a pigtailed macaque model of human immunodeficiency virus. The Journal of Infectious Diseases 224(12), 2113–2121.

Although social distancing is a key public health response during viral pandemics, psychosocial stressors, such as social isolation, have been implicated in adverse health outcomes in general [1] and in the context of infectious disease, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) [2, 3]. A comprehensive understanding of the direct pathophysiologic effects of psychosocial stress on viral pathogenesis is needed to provide strategic and comprehensive care to patients with viral infection.To determine the effect of psychosocial stress on HIV pathogenesis during acute viral infection without sociobehavioral confounders inherent in human cohorts, we compared commonly measured parameters of HIV progression between singly (n = 35) and socially (n = 41) housed simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected pigtailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina).Singly housed macaques had a higher viral load in the plasma and cerebrospinal fluid and demonstrated greater CD4 T-cell declines and more CD4 and CD8 T-cell activation compared with socially housed macaques throughout acute SIV infection.These data demonstrate that psychosocial stress directly impacts the pathogenesis of acute SIV infection and imply that it may act as an integral variable in the progression of HIV infection and potentially of other viral infections.