Association of prospective risk for chronic PTSD symptoms with low TNFa and IFNG concentrations in the immediate aftermath of trauma exposure

Vasiliki Michopoulos, Eleonore Beurel, Felicia Gould, Firdaus Dhabhar, Katharina Schultebraucks, Isaac Galatzer-Levy, Barbara O. Rothbaum, Kerry J. Ressler, Charles Nemeroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective: Although several reports have documented heightened systemic inflammation in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), few studies have assessed whether inflammatory markers serve as prospective biomarkers for PTSD risk. The present study aimed to characterize whether peripheral immune factors measured in blood samples collected in an emergency department immediately after trauma exposure would predict later chronic development of PTSD. Methods: Participants (N=505) were recruited from a hospital emergency department and underwent a 1.5-hour assessment. Blood samples were drawn, on average, about 3 hours after trauma exposure. Follow-up assessments were conducted 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after trauma exposure. Latent growth mixture modeling was used to identify classes of PTSD symptom trajectories. Results: Three distinct classes of PTSD symptom trajectories were identified: chronic (N=28), resilient (N=160), and recovery (N=85). Multivariate analyses of covariance revealed a significant multivariate main effect of PTSD symptom trajectory class membership on proinflammatory cytokines. Univariate analyses showed a significant main effect of trajectory class membership on plasma concentrations of proinflammatory tumor necrosis factor a (TNFa) and interferon-g (IFNg). Concentrations of proinflammatory TNFa and IFNg were significantly lower in individuals in the chronic PTSD class compared with those in the recovery and resilient classes. There were no significant differences in interleukin (IL) 1b and IL-6 concentrations by PTSD symptom trajectory class. Anti-inflammatory and other cytokines, as well as chemokines and growth factor concentrations, were not associated with development of chronic PTSD. Conclusions: Overall, the study findings suggest that assessing the proinflammatory immune response to trauma exposure immediately after trauma exposure, in the emergency department, may help identify individuals most at risk for developing chronic PTSD in the aftermath of trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-65
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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