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Blood Biomarkers May Help Predict Chronic PTSD Risk

August 13, 2019

Blood samples taken hours after trauma exposure may help identify who is most at risk for developing chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a study published online in The American Journal of Psychiatry found.

“Although several reports have documented heightened systemic inflammation in post-traumatic stress disorder, few studies have assessed whether inflammatory markers serve as prospective biomarkers for PTSD risk,” researchers wrote.

The study looked at blood samples drawn in the emergency department an average 3 hours after trauma exposure for 505 adult patients. Participants underwent a 1.5-hour baseline psychological assessment during their emergency department visit as well as follow-up PTSD assessments at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months afterward.

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Among the 28 participants who developed chronic PTSD, concentrations of the proinflammatory molecules tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) and interferon-γ (IFNγ) were significantly lower than in participants who developed and then recovered from PTSD or who did not experience PTSD at all, the study found.

“The findings suggest that assessing immunological changes in response to trauma exposure in the emergency department may help identify patients who are most at risk for developing chronic PTSD symptoms in the aftermath of trauma,” a Psychiatric News Alert quoted from the study. “Such individuals may benefit from immediate psychological and pharmacological interventions that have been shown to be effective in attenuating PTSD development.”

—Jolynn Tumolo


Michopoulos V, Beurel E, Gould F, et al. Association of prospective risk for chronic PTSD symptoms with low TNFα and IFNγ concentrations in the immediate aftermath of trauma exposure. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 2019 July 29;[Epub ahead of print].

Blood biomarkers may help identify trauma patients at risk of chronic PTSD. Psychiatric News Alert. July 29, 2019.

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