Background: Anesthesiologists are a population at high risk of alcohol and drug abuse, depression, suicide, and psychiatric hospitalization. The impact of their working milieu on specific immune indices has scarcely been studied, and it is assumed that immune perturbations may contribute to some of the above risks. This study took advantage of an unplanned, 3-month long strike of anesthesiologists, and explored its relations to specific immune measures. Methods: We assessed induced cytokine production and lymphocytes proliferative responses in blood samples taken from 10 anesthesiologists just before the strike and at its end, after a long period of markedly reduced workload. Results: The results indicated that the proliferative responses to phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and concanavalin A (Con A) were significantly lower at the end of the strike. At this time point, we observed a significant decrease in the production of interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-10 and IL1ra levels, and a significant increase in IL-2 production. A strong trend towards a decline in tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) levels was evident, while levels of IL-1β were unchanged. Conclusion: These findings suggest that the working conditions of anesthesiologists are associated with specific immune alterations, including a shift towards a Th2 cytokines' dominance, and an elevated pro-inflammatory cytokine response. A reduced Th1 profile has been related to increased susceptibility to infections, and high pro-inflammatory cytokine levels were recently proposed as etiological factors in cardiovascular diseases and in depression.
- Pro-inflammatory cytokines
- Th1/Th2 balance