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Differences in the Association Between Persistent Pathogens and Mood Disorders Among Young- to Middle-Aged Women and Men in the U.S.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Amanda M. Simanek, Amy Parry, Jennifer B. Dowd

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Early online date28 Sep 2017
Accepted/In press27 Sep 2017
E-pub ahead of print28 Sep 2017


King's Authors


A growing literature supports the role of immune system alterations in the etiology of mood regulation, yet there is little population-based evidence regarding the association between persistent pathogens, inflammation and mood disorders among younger women and men in the U.S.

We used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III on individuals 15-39 years of age assessed for major depression, dysthymia, and/or bipolar disorder I and tested for cytomegalovirus (N=6825), herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1 (N=5618) and/or Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) (N=3167) seropositivity as well as C-reactive protein (CRP) level (N=6788). CMV immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody level was also available for a subset of women (N=3358). We utilized logistic regression to estimate the odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for the association between pathogens, CRP levels and each mood disorder overall and among women and men, separately.

H. pylori seropositivity was associated with increased odds of dysthymia (OR 2.37, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.07, 5.24) among women, but decreased odds among men (OR 0.51, 95% CI: 0.28, 0.92). CMV seropositivity was also associated with lower odds of depression (OR 0.54, 95% CI: 0.32, 0.91) among men, while elevated CMV IgG level was marginally associated with increased odds of mood disorders among women. Associations were not mediated by CRP level.

Our findings suggest that persistent pathogens such as CMV and H. pylori may differentially influence mood disorders among women and men, warranting further investigation into biological and/or sociocultural explanations for the contrasting associations observed.

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