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Macaque social status alters immunity

Nature volume 540, page 10 (01 December 2016) | Download Citation

Changing the social status of macaques also changes their immune systems.

Image: C. Huetter/Robert Harding

Low social status has been linked to multiple health problems in humans and other primates, some of which may not be linked to the accessibility of food and other resources.

Jenny Tung of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina; Luis Barreiro of the University of Montreal, Canada; and their colleagues analysed the immune cells and gene expression of female macaques before and after they artificially altered the relative social status of the animals by creating new social groups.

Low status was linked to inflammation, including alterations in the make-up of immune cells in the animals' blood and changes in gene expression that could promote an inflammatory response. This link between social subordination and altered immune response was present despite no variation in access to food or health care among the animals.

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