Immune responsiveness and risk of illness in U.S. Air Force Academy cadets during Basic Cadet Training

D. J. Lee, R. T. Meehan, C. Robinson, T. R. Mabry, M. L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


It has been proposed, but not confirmed, that environmental stressors alter immune function and increase the risk of viral infection among healthy individuals. We evaluated this hypothesis, examining the relationship among stress, immune function, and illness in 96 first-year U.S. Air Force Academy cadets during orientation and 4 weeks later during the stressful environment of Basic Cadet Training (BCT). Perceived stress and well-being levels of cadets were assessed via questionnaire. Immune responsiveness was analyzed by PHA-stimulated thymidine uptake in mononuclear leucocytes and by serologic evidence of reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). We documented significant declines in in vitro PHA-induced lymphocyte transformation (-35%; p < 0.05) and subjective well-being (-19%; p < 0.05) from orientation to BCT with corresponding, significant increases in perceived stress (+32%; p < 0.05). Despite significantly altered in vitro immune responsiveness, there was no serologic evidence of EBV reactivation nor was there an association between these measures and risk of illness as determined by medical chart review and self-reported symptoms. These results suggest that reduced in vitro immune responsiveness during a moderate stressor may not necessarily lead to an increased risk of infection and/or reactivation of EBV in normal individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-523
Number of pages7
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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