Whether it’s meditation, walking in nature, or a glass of wine, we’re all looking for ways to manage stress. A recent Psychology Today article discussed the potential for a stress vaccine that uses bacterium found in dirt, called Mycobacterium vaccae, to inhibit the fight-or-flight response in mammals. Last year, a research team at the University of Colorado Boulder published a study that showed the strategy worked to reduce stressful reactions in mice. The concept was then proven, but they didn’t know exactly why it worked.
This year, the team conducted another study that identified and isolated the lipid in the bacterium that seems to be responsible for the effects. They were also able to synthesize the lipid to evaluate how it interacts with immune cells. Apparently the lipid binds with receptors within the immune cells and blocks certain chemicals that cause inflammation. This lipid could likely become the focus for drug development to prevent stress reactions that lead to disorders like PTSD and inhibit other kinds of inflammatory reactions.